Instead of Running Dublin Marathon 2016

I did not run today’s Dublin Marathon this year for the first time in 6 years. It’s been emotional folks, I’m not gonna lie.

Driving home from the city on Friday night, I passed through part of the route, spying posters and traffic diversion signs warning of the impending traffic disruptions, metal barriers stacked nearly on pavements patiently waiting to line the streets before sunrise on race day.

I actually cried.

Laughing at myself – while crying – but crying all the same.

I love the Dublin Marathon more than any other race I’ve ever done but unfortunately due to ongoing stress fracture injuries in my feet, I had to give it a miss this year. Today was the big day, with over 19,000 runners due to take part, making it the biggest Dublin Marathon yet. This year marked the first time the race has been run on the Sunday of the Bank holiday October weekend, having been moved from its usual spot on the Monday, and the result is that numbers increased by approximately 6,000 participants. Huge.

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St Stephen’s Green was picture perfect autumn yesterday as I strolled through it on my way to do some light serious shopping.

And what a day it turned out to be. THE most perfect autumn day – bright, blue skies, cool but not too cold, hardly any wind and beautiful autumn sunshine. Excellent running conditions and I could just imagine crossing that finish line, meeting up with family and hanging out in town afterwards with Dublin its very finest. Alas, at least 19,000 other people would get to this today. All that happiness and achievement makes me very happy indeed!

I considered going in to cheer on the courageous marathoners but in the end I decided against it, as I’d likely just end up crying on the sidelines and feeling bad about my stupid, seemingly endless injuries. I’ll happy to cheer at other races, but this one is the one closest to my dumb sentimental heart.

Instead, I decided a more positive approach would be to do something at the same time as the marathon in some kind of sympathetic companionship with the marathoners. So, I got up early and headed off on a long cycle into the countryside, beginning at the same time that I would’ve been starting the marathon!

It’s a little sad, I’ll admit, but you know what? Who cares?!

From Naas, I cycled to Sallins, Clane and straight on to the Baltracey crossroads, where I turned left for Timahoe. I swung a right turn in Timahoe and headed out across the bog road for Clougharinka, which turned out to be gorgeous. Honestly, I just noticed Cloughrinka on a map one day and liked the sound of the name, so I fancied cycling there to have a look at the place. It’s a teeny village but the area around it is all trees, ruins and bursting with colour at the moment.

From Cloughrinka, I turned toward Edenderry (another place I’d never been to in Ireland!) and from there, I turned right in the town across the bog road toward Rathangan. The first bog road was fine but this one… aye, it was never-ending! I could see from the map that it was just this long straight road but I didn’t think it would actually feel that long… but unfortunately the road surface was fairly poor and made for heavy cycling. Boy was I glad to get to Rathangan! Having cycled through Rathangan many times before, I knew it would be a speedy route home and I was able to re-focus and just pedal for home.

100 km round trip – making this the first time I’ve ever ridden 100 km! I know that’s not much to some people, but it’s a big milestone for me and it really makes me appreciates how the professionals will ride between 200-300km a day in the Tour de France AND with insane mountain climbs AND cycling at twice the speed that I would. Not to mention day after day after day.

Gladiators of men, if you ask me.

After my cycle, I had a long hot bath (complete with coffee and chocolate, if you’re curious 😉 ) just as I would have done if I had done the marathon today, followed by something to eat and a good movie while elevating my tired legs.

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I also dropped into M&S to get a bread roll. Where’d all that other stuff come from??? #TheM&Seffect

Today was not the day I would have liked it to be back in January, when I first signed up for the Dublin marathon but with a little bit of effort and enthusiasm, I turned what could otherwise have been a very sad day, into something very positive.

Injuries happen. Life happens. Things crop up that get in the way of good plans and the path we’ve laid out for ourselves. It’s okay to get upset, it’s okay to get angry and it is okay to cry. But get back up, shake yourself off and always have another run at it. Just never give up and never give in, because it’s a beautiful day out there and you are NOT going to want to miss it.

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Accidentally stumbling across this in M&S is also partly responsible for the joy I’m feeling right now. Never seen before in Ireland!!

Well done to everyone who braved the Dublin Marathon today, you incredible people you. Huge congratulations and enjoy your well-earned time off and celebrations. What an achievement, be proud!

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Dublin Marathon 2016

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Are you running the 2016 Dublin Marathon? If so, you are a lucky, lucky person in for a beautiful day of running. A great day to be alive! For those who are not, due to injury or otherwise, I commiserate entirely with you, being benched myself this year for the first time in 5 years.

The Dublin Marathon is without doubt, my favourite day of the year – trumping Christmas and my birthday, just to be clear. From the terrific route, unreal atmosphere and the best magnetic crowd support, this road race is, in my opinion, unrivalled on the Irish running scene.

What Do You Need to Know?

With just 7 days left until race day, the countdown to the start of the Dublin marathon 2016 has well and truly begun. Runners will be crossing off the days on their calendar as they pace themselves through the final days of their taper and preparing mentally as well as practically.

To help you out here’s a few things to keep in mind from now until Sunday:

Tapering – It looks easy on the running schedule when you see it written down and compare it to all of the other weeks of training you’ve done, but in it’s own peculiar way, it is one of the hardest weeks of training you’ll do. Personally, it wrecks my head…but I know it works and is worth the mental turmoil so just try to relax, take lots of deep breaths and trust your training plan.

You will all have your own versions of a taper plan but general rules of thumb are to incrementally reduce your overall weekly mileage 2-3 weeks before race day, maintaining the number of days you run and the usual level of effort involved in each session – but reducing the number of miles you would normally run in each session. You’re aiming to rest your legs and allow for increased repair and recovery by doing less miles, but you simultaneously want to keep your legs sharp and maintain pace memory.

Don’t freak out. Don’t be cranky. And try not to lose it. Every year, I do this – unusually high levels of energy due to less running coupled with pre-marathon jitters is a recipe for a jumpy runner! You have been warned.

Toast Honey

Food – By now you’ve practised with different food (and drinks) before, during and after training and hopefully too with races. The week before race week is NOT the time to start experimenting with new things. It’s coming to the end of a marathon training cycle and it may well be the case that you’re getting bored of your banana on toast or bagel with honey…My advice?

Suck it up.

You can eat something different next week – when you’re not about to run 26.2 miles and subject your body to massive physical demands which significantly hinges on the digestive system and your body’s ability to produce energy.

Don’t make it harder for yourself. Trust me when I say eat the foods that you know work and leave experimenting to the next cycle of training.

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Tried and tested.

Carbo-Loading – On a similar note, there is a lot of advice bouncing around about “carbo-loading” before a marathon. 2 things:

  1. White – In the days before a marathon, it can be good to reduce the amount of fibre you normally take in as this will make it easier on your digestive system on race day. For this week, it’s okay to switch from wholegrain everything to white everything.
  1. Don’t Stuff Your Face – Carbo-loading does not mean simply add extra high carb foods to your daily intake. Aim to increase the percentage of carbs in your normal daily intake of food, rather than just adding it on as an “as well as”. Eating excessive amounts of carbs, particularly on a week when you’re running less, could leave you feeling bloated, heavy and might affect your weight- the last thing you want after all your hard work is to end up feeling like crap on race day.

Gear

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Get EVERYTHING ready well ahead of time. No need for stress.

Make a list of everything you plan to be wearing on race day, as well as anything you need before and after the race. A throwaway top for waiting around before the race, a black plastic bag in case it’s raining (and a cap), food and drinks for immediately after the race, dry clothes… Try to think of everything now and get it all ready a few days before the race. This always helps to calm me and it gives me plenty of time to think of anything I might have forgotten. Leaving this to the last minute the day before a race can make you frazzled. Again, unnecessary hassle and wasted energy.

The Expo – The expo in the RDS is always great and I love chatting to visiting stalls about foreign marathons, like in Scotland or France and browsing through all of the running bling. But be selective – don’t be tempted to spend too long on your feet. More wasted energy and glycogen seeping away!

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Abandon all hope ye who enter here…

Route

This year will see the route remain the same as last year, having incorporated a few changes in last year’s edition to accommodate ongoing Luas works. A few tips:

  • 2 Mile – Watch your pace after you pass the 2 mile mark. You’ll come along the quays of the Liffey, cross over and head uphill on Blackhall Place. It’s early and you’ll be a combination of nerves and wanting to set a good pace BUT Blackhall Place up into Stoneybatter is all uphill so don’t push too hard. Be patient here.
  • 3  – 7 Mile – Mind the Incline (again) This is a more subtle gradient than Blackhall Place and because it’s early on too, you might not pay as much attention to this as you should. Listen to me when I say this – IT IS ALL INCLINE THROUGH THE PHOENIX PARK as you make your way along Chesterfield Avenue. DO NOT worry about your pace and DO NOT push too hard here. I did that a few years ago, being anxious about not getting too far behind my goal pace in the early miles and the result was my quads blew up after 16 miles. Once you’ve left the park and passed through the great crowds in Castleknock, there’ll be a sharp left turn and a nice downhill. Just be patient for it.
  • 21/ 22 Mile – Clonskeagh and Roebuck Hills – Heartbreak Hill. Beware Be aware that there is a climb awaiting you as you turn onto Clonskeagh Road and make your way up Dublin’s version of Heartbreak Hill around the back of UCD. There’s a Lucozade station to look forward to here so focus on that, just keep tapping forward and keep in mind – once you get over this hill, you’re downhill onto the Stillorgan road and on the home straight. This is always a favourite point in the race for me – it’s at this point I know roughly what time I’m going to finish in and more importantly, I KNOW I’m going to finish the race and I can really start to suck up the atmosphere and just enjoy every last minute of it.

Relax. Marathon day is reward day. You’ve done the hard part – the weeks and weeks of early mornings, late evenings, speed sessions, long runs, disciplined diet and social life. Now is your time. Now is when you get to do what you love most – lace up your runners and run one of the best marathons there is (if you ask me!). If your nervous, that’s ok – it would be frankly quite inhuman if your body was not nervous about what you were about to physically subject it to. Nerves are natural. Nerves are good. But control them and don’t let them take control.

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Chill time people, don’t fight it.

Rest. As much as you can this week, don’t walk if you can drive and don’t stand when you can sit. Sleep properly and early. And do not fill your extra time with spinning classes, housework or clearing out your storeroom. Your goal this week: avoid spending any energy you don’t need to. Energy conservation is your mission should you choose to accept it. Regular stretching and foam-rolling are also good to keep your muscles from getting too tight.

Enjoy This Time. You’ve spent ages getting to this point and often we blitz through the run-up to a marathon fretting about getting organised. It doesn’t need to be that way. Sit back, soak up the excitement and look forward to Sunday.

Because it is going to be truly great and you are not going to want to miss it 😉

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Fitzwilliam Place, starting line. Best place to be this Sunday at 9am

Are you one of the lucky ones taking part in the Dublin Marathon this year? Best of luck to you and would love to hear from you if you are! Go n-eiri an bothar leat!

Eating The Burn: WHAT to Eat ? Carbs

Carbs

This is the third episode in my Eating The Burn Serie in which I’m attempting to investigate what, how much and when I should be eating as I train for the upcoming Paris marathon.

In Part One, I ran a detailed look at what I currently consume on a typical marathon training day compared with what I “should” be eating/drinking according to some of the many running books, magazines, articles, internet and other sources of information out there. In Part Two, I ran through what I ate and drank on my long run (20 mile) day, and again compared this to what I estimated I should be consuming on such a heavy training day. In this episode, I want to look at the types of food and drink that I typically eat and drink while training for a marathon Vs. what I’m allegedly “supposed to” be consuming.

We’ve already established that how much you need to consume each day is variable for every individual and depends on factors such as your height, weight, sex and daily training. Now we want to look at how those calories should be divided up on an average day – As a runner, what is the best way to get your energy requirements?

Carbohydrates: NO WAIT! Don’t leave 🙂 !! I’m right there with you -I don’t know how many articles I’ve clicked on in the past claiming to be able to tell me more about what I should be eating as a runner and/or during training for a marathon, for said article only to turn around and tell me that… wait, what?! Eat more carbs. NO! Really? Groundbreaking.

No.

Do runners need to be consuming carbohydrates when training? Quick answer: yes.

Quick science? Carbohydrate provides the most readily available source of fuel for muscles to use in moderate to high intensity exercise. Carbs are broken down by the digestive system, carried around the body as blood glucose and this glucose is stored in muscle and the liver as glycogen to be used by the body during activity. Your muscles use the stored glycogen as their primary energy source with blood glucose as an additional source. When muscle glycogen becomes low, fatigue occurs in the muscles being used. Muscle glycogen depletion occurs after 2-3 hours of continuous training at low intensity. (Okay, so that wasn’t so quick but stay with me 🙂 )

Now, I don’t think I was that bad at math in school but seems to me that there are a lot of different calculators, equations and percentages being quoted as regards how much carbohydrate a runner should be eating day in, day out. I am somewhat confusseded.

 

How much?

Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners (2011) – Says that between 55-65 % of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. She also says that carbs should make up the foundation of every meal, every day (p106). When carbo-loading, she recommends consuming between 3-5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight.

Douglas and Pfitzinger – Advanced Marathoning (2009). These guys say that you calculate your carbohydrate requirements based on your weight and how much you’re training. They say that if you are averaging between 1-1 1/2 hours of training per day, you need approximately 3-3.5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. If training for over 2 hours, you need 4-4.5g per pound of bodyweight per day.


International Olympics Committee Report on Nutrition For Athletes (2012) 
– The IOC note that an athlete’s carbohydrate needs are closely tied to the muscle fuel costs of their training and that because training load changes from day to day, and from training period to training period, an athlete’s intake of carbs should rise and fall in accordance with their muscle fuel needs, rather than remain static or fixed.

In relation to daily targets, the IOC suggest that while general targets are fine, these should be fine-tuned according to an individual’s energy budget and feedback from how well they are training. They suggest that carb intake might be increased on days involving hard training, high intensity or with high quality to ensure that they have adequate muscle carbohydrate stores to fuel these goals. In other words, when training needs increase, so does carbohydrate intake. It’s not going to be the same everyday.

Like D & F and Nancy, IOC recommend that carbohydrate targets should be provided in terms of grams relative to the athlete’s size (Body mass) rather than as a percentage of total energy intake. They even did a helpful little chart:

Training Level Carbohydrate Intake Targets

(g per kg of athlete’s body mass)

Light/ Low Intensity 3 – 5g /kg
Moderate Intensity (1 hour per day) 5 – 7g/ kg
High Endurance Program (1-3 hours of mod-high intensity exercise) 6 – 10 g/kg
Very High / Extreme Commitment (4-5 hours per day of mod – high intensity exercise) 8 -12 g/ kg

The IOC report is well worth reading and just to highlight some of what they say in relation to carbohydrates, in particular (because let’s face it, they know lots more about this than I do!):

Rather than talk about “high carbohydrate diets” and “low carbohydrate diets”, we should now consider carbohydrate availability relative to the muscle’s fuel needs – is the total intake and timing of the day’s intake able to meet the fuel demands of a workout (= high carbohydrate availability), or are carbohydrate stores depleted or sub-optimal in comparison to the muscle fuel demand (= low carbohydrate availability).

The table above shows that very different amounts of carbohydrate may be adequate for different training loads. Therefore two athletes could eat the same about of carbohydrate, but according to their training needs, one could achieve high carbohydrate availability whereas the carbohydrate availability of the other athlete is low.

Many athletes do some of their training sessions with low carbohydrate availability – for example, when they train first thing in the morning without breakfast, when they go for a long workout without access to food or a sports drink, or when they reduce their energy intake to reduce body fat levels. This may not be a problem during the base phase of training or on days of light training, when training intensity and quality is low. In fact, some studies suggest that doing some training sessions in this way provides a good stimulus to the muscle to help it adapt to training. Of course, such strategies need to be periodised into the training program so that they don’t interfere with training intensity

When athletes train more than once per day and sessions are close together, speedy recovery of the muscle carbohydrate stores is essential. Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods and drinks soon after the session helps with rapid refuelling, since the muscle can’t store glycogen effectively in the absence of carbohydrate intake.”

The IOC go on to discuss the timing of carbohydrate intake in more detail which you can read about by following the above link or I’m also planning to discuss timing as a topic of running nutrition in a follow-up post, if you can wait that long 😉

Conclusion on Carbohydrates: The amount of carbohydrate a runner needs to consume on a daily basis depends firstly on your own characteristics: sex, age, height and weight; and secondly, it depends on the training you do on any one day. Maths, people. It keeps coming back to the maths.

The only quibble I have with any of this is that there is something of a variation between the recommended calculations (ie. Nancy Clark, D & F, the IOC, etc). Yes, there are similarities but what I’m getting from all of it is that there are no exact figures because it is not an exact science. At least not yet anyways. For example, they all give approximate, or rough, figures like 3-5 g per kg of body mass  for “low intensity”, which (a) there is quite a difference between 3 and 5 g per kg of body mass and (b) terms like “low intensity” are subjective and open to broad interpretation. Another major point of confusion is that some of these carb calculators ask you to calculate per KG of bodyweight and others use POUNDS and again there is a whopping difference beween 3g per kg of bodyweight and 3g per pound of bodyweight… I am pedantic. I like exactness and I loathe grey areas. I’m a lawyer, after all, not a politician.

The Bottom Line: Even when you do the maths – tap in your sex, age, gender, weight, height  – to work out your approximate daily carbohydrate needs, there are variable factors that also need to be taken into account that will effect your daily carbohydrate target, such as the intensity and duration of your run/ workout for that day.

BUT WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO TAKE FROM THIS (other than the fact that I have OCD tendencies and a weird dislike of grey areas!) is that runners do need carbohydrates. Vegetarians, omnivores, vegans, pescatarians, paleo peeps, whatever foodie lifestyle you follow, if you run, and in particular, if you’re training for a marathon or doing other endurance training, your muscles need carbohydrate. So eat em.

In the next episode of this series, I will be looking at different sources of carbohydrates and the types of carbohydrates I eat during training Vs. what should be eaten…

Do you find that you eat a lot of carbohydrates when marathon training or doing a lot of running mileage?

Do you ever bother to do the maths to work out how much carbohydrate you should be eating or do you just eat depending on how you feel?

Running Reflections

MorningSunIt’s the time of the year when it can seem that almost everyone is blogging about resolutions and reflecting on the departing year. It’s a natural final step to the year, signing off the end of a chapter before moving on to the next one. Plan, do, reflect, conclude, repeat. It’s how we improve as human beings, constantly searching for improvement in ourselves and consciously or unconsciously aiming to become a better, more efficient version of our self.

My life is not in the place I had planned for it to be in right now. I planned my path carefully and sensibly, or so I thought, and I was running solidly along that path looking at the finish line when I suddenly seemed to fall through a manhole on the road. Scary in the dark, in an unknown place. But as Alfred said to Batman, “Why do we fall Bruce? So we learn to pick ourselves back up.” I’m not Batman (or at least not that I’m telling you 😉) and I’m not back up yet. But I am learning and I am seeing the world from a different place and that, in my opinion, is only ever a good thing.

On a happier note, I set some running goals last year, with the overarching goal being to enjoy it more and just to basically just do what I liked. Running is my escape and my time to have fun, where nothing all else matters and I was damned if I was going to let myself drift into a headspace where pace, time goals and disappointing marathon times reigned supreme. I’ve always been sporty so I’d be lying if I said that the competitive side of me didn’t find this a challenge but after a while I just kind of fell into being more laid back while out on a run. And yes, I really did start to enjoy it more and can honestly say I have enjoyed the last year of running more than any other year.

The irony ? Being more laid back on my runs has had an impact on my race times and in the past year, I’ve PBed over every distance. Happiness makes me faster, faster makes me happier. It’ a good circle, but it’s more of a by-the-way, rather than what determines running for me now.

Oh, I also ran up a list of resolutions last new year,  most of which didn’t happen but for the few that did, the list proved to be worthy of the ink. Yes, new year’s resolution lists are cliché, trite and usually forgotten about after a week but there’s nothing to lose by doing one so why not?

My running goals for 2015 looked like this:

Distance : Current PB v 2015 Goal (pace)

5km : 22.54 v 22.40 (7.18 mins / mile)Did this: 22.35 (7.16 per mile) Sept 15     5 Miles: 41.41 v sub 40 (8 mins / mile) Did this: 39.11 (7.44 per mile) 27.6.15
10km : 51.35 v 50.00 (8.02 mins/ mile) Did this: 47.57 (7.43 per mile) 1.6.15
10 Mile : 1.27.07 v 1.25 (8.30 min/mile) Did this: 1.23.07 (8.19 /mile) 22.8.15
Half-Marathon: 1.51.59 (Dublin Half-Marathon) v 1.50 (8.23 mins/ mile)     Did this: 1.49.15 (8.14 / mile) 19.9.15
Marathon: 4.05.35 (2013 Dublin Marathon) v 4.00 (9.08 mins/mile)               Did this: 3.58.35 (8.56 per mile) 11.7.1 and again… 3:50:54 (8.49/ mile) 26.10.15

I love enjoying running again and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even a 2 hour marathon time. So for the new year, Mr 2016, my goal is simple: to continue to enjoy running as much as I can and discover new ways to enjoy it more. Trail running, forest runs, maybe an ultra… the possibilities are all out there waiting to be discovered and it sure is exciting.

HAPPY NEW YEAR one and all and best of luck for 2016.

It’s never as dark as you think.

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Blast From the Past

Due to unexpected events, I’m taking care of my 3 year old godchild today. For a lot of you out there, this probably wouldn’t qualify as an event but for my currently childless self, it most certainly is.  To be honest, the 6am start was an event…Eww, I am NOT used to seeing that hour of the morning which by the way is insane, but I do understand that such madness is unavoidable for many of you. Still though. Gross.

My 3 year old charge and I are having a retro Christmas day. This is how we do it.

Classic Disney movie – The Princess and the Frog. Incidentally, it does seem to have more scary moments than most other Disney movies… but luckily we’re optimists so we have faith in the frog 🙂

Pancakes for breakfast. I haven’t eaten pancakes for brekkie since forever and Ellie doesn’t usually have time before school so treat day all round. Honey and blueberries to top. We’re all pancake happy here.

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Snap.  Peppa Pig Pigstyle,of course. But still, love a good game of snap. Competitive levels taken down a few notches, to be fair. She’s probably too young to reveal my full competitive snap self to. The greater population of the known universe is probably too young to reveal my full competitive snap self to.

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Arts and Crafts. Got some scissors, coloured paper, lots of prittstick,paint, colouring pencils and straws. I could be here all day people.

So, guess which one is mine?
So, guess which one is mine?

Iced Caramels. I have not seen these in YEARS and yes, apparently they do still exist. Nothing brings sweets out of their hiding place like Christmas. I’m game.

Feeding the swans. Doesn’t get more old school than this. It may be Storm Frank outside but right now, the rain has stopped and we’re all about the swans and trying out the new bike Santa brought.

Good days are not always big days.

Time Off For Good Behaviour

Time off Beer & Crisps

I haven’t been convicted of any crime, nor am I admitting to have I committed one. Rather my time off for good behaviour is for being a good little runner bee for the last while and respectfully obeying the marathon training plan given to me by my now mates, Douglas and Pfitzinger. I’m quite sure that they don’t know they’re my mates and indeed might be a little frightened by this information, but I’m okay with that. By following their plan, I ran a PR for the marathon and remained injury-free throughout. Happy days.

Lots more time hanging with Molly this week, including a few leafy strolls...
Lots more time hanging with Molly this week, including a few leafy strolls…

For the last 7 days since running the Dublin Marathon, I’ve been indulging in time off from running. I did not run a single day. Confession: I did do a lot of research and reading about marathon recovery plans. I found that these varied quite a bit, some involving running 3 runs in the first 7 days following a marathon, others involving none. My own feelings on it are that in the time immediately following a big run like this, the most important thing is to listen to your body and to give it time to recover. Yes, it’s annoying losing all the fitness you’ve worked so hard on but what would be more annoying and frustrating would be to cause injury to yourself by starting back too soon. The damage caused to muscles and connective tissue in your body during a marathon NEED TIME to repair. Don’t be a tool fool. Show some respect for your body, not your ego.

Craving lemon things all week...see how this muffin glows in the sunshine!
Craving lemon things all week…see how this muffin glows in the sunshine!

I’ve slept A LOT in the last 7 days, sometimes napping in the afternoon where I’ve been able to, and I also did a few gentle cycles and walks to loosen up my legs and mostly, just to get out into the fresh air and enjoy all the autumn goodness. There has also been a good amount of food, halloween movies and Netflix.

Today is day 8 post-marathon and in all honesty, I am done with rest and recovery. By yesterday, I had become quite bored with it all and couldn’t wait to get back to my normal eating routines and running lifestyle. I did my first run this morning post-marathon and I felt brilliant afterwards. All it was a very easy 3 miles – I didn’t feel spectacular, it wasn’t a particularly good run for any reason, but it gave routine to my day and a feeling of satisfaction that I’ve missed, even if it’s only been gone for 7 days.

I know it will be a while before my running schedule will be back up and, ahem, running… and I will be taking it very slow, remaining conscious not to rush back into things, but it’s nice to feel like I’m on the way back from being away. Coming home from being on holiday. Holiday is nice for a while and sometimes we think we’d like to stay there forever, but after 2 weeks of seaside, pizza, ice-cream and sangria, you realise you’ve had enough. It’s time to go home.

How long do you take after a marathon before starting running again?

Are you glad to have time off after a big race like the marathon?

Dublin Marathon Race Recap: Wind, Rain & a Great Day Out

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After weeks of training and a year’s waiting for my favourite race to come around again, the Dublin Marathon reigned supreme on the streets of Dublin city for the last time on Bank Holiday Monday.

All week, the weather forecast on accuweather.com was predicting “Cloudy with a chance of rain” for the day of the race and despite my (and thousands of others, no doubt…) rapid return to Catholicsm and many prayers being offered up to the clouds, that forecast consistently got darker, wetter and windier as the weekend approached and by yesterday morning, the national weather forecast had a yellow weather warning in place. Strong winds and rain from before 9am and to continue for the rest of the day. As accuweather put it, “Poor for running”. Okay. I’ve always been lucky with marathons weather-wise so I figured that I was due for some less than optimal running conditions. Not to worry, I’m a runner, code for tough bad-ass. Oh, and I also have a big black plastic sack and a hat. How bad-ass is that? 😉

Mexican waves at the start of the race. Everyone feeling high!
Mexican waves at the start of the race. Everyone feeling high!

Mum is great (have I mentioned that?) and had decided that she would come and support me yesterday, which was great. As we drove up to Dublin, the clouds got bigger and darker and the rain started to fall. My mum has parking in her office building in Earlsfort Terrace, which was brilliant as it meant only a 10 minute walk to the start/finish area. Quick detour to the Conrad hotel to go to the loo and I was black-sacked and ready to go. I waved Mum off at the bag drop area and walked around to the orange number wave area on Fitzwilliam St., with about 15 minutes to go before the start. There was plenty of room in the start tunnels, which made for a nice chance, and I did a some stretching before sorting out my i-pod and getting the Garmin all set to go.

The visually-impaired runners and the wheelchair participants headed off at 8:55am and then the 9am gun went off to set the first wave of runners on their way. It was a nice relief to be in the first wave on a wet day like yesterday as the last thing you need is to be standing still in the wet and cold before a run for longer than is necessary. I chucked the black bag and of course, once we got going, I didn’t feel cold anymore and forgot all about the rain. Quick wave to the mom on Leeson Street (who didn’t see me…) and it was time for the good stuff.

Marathon playlist was rolling in my ears and I hardly noticed the first 2 miles, with looking around me at all the lovely runners, supporters, trees, roads, lampposts… you know how it goes! You literally love everything in the first few miles of a marathon. Down onto the keys, we soon crossed over the Liffey for the only new section of the course and the first significant climb of the day, up Blackhall Place and through Stoneybatter. I was wary of this section before the race, as I knew that shortly afterwards, there would be more climbing through the Phoenix Park so I tried to take it easy on this section. It was a long enough climb and significant enough to de-rail you if you took it too hard. I held back and remained conscious of the gradual climb, before the course then turned left onto the North Circular road. This part was nice and used to be part of the old course before they removed it due to Luas works.

Into the gates of the Phoenix Park, there was a nice group of supporters cheering the runners on and we were past 3 miles. Confession: my first 3 miles were faster than they should have been. BUT they were not as fast as they usually were for a race. My plan for the day was to try and adhere to 9:08-9:10 pace as much as I could and while I still ran the first 3 faster than this (8.15; 8.05; 8.30), in the past these would typically have been in the region of 7:15 – 7:45 per mile, so at least it was an improvement. I also didn’t feel like I was pushing that hard and more than pace, my aim was to stay relaxed and comfortable while running (inasmuch as you ever can!) so I was happy enough at this point.

The beautiful autumn scene that is the Phoenix Park in October was a little dreary yesterday but it was nonetheless abundantly leafy and colourful. Admittedly, this is not my favourite section of the course. It’s a long, straight 2.5 mile drag that has a deceptive incline. Last year, I ran this too hard and paid dearly for it after 16 miles. Again, I was careful not to go hard and I kept reminding myself that there would be downhill after we got through Castleknock and any time lost here could be made up there so not to worry. Out of the park and we continued to climb into Castleknock, where there was great crowds of people and brilliant support. I remembered this from last year and was not disappointed yesterday. Thank you Castleknock! Awesome cheering, so loud I could hardly hear my i-pod. I took out my headphones for this section, before we turned left down College Road and to the 7 mile water station.

I took a clif shot and some water at the 7 mile mark, as per the plan, and continued on down the hill to Tower Road and then back into the park at Knockmaroon. I swear, there are times in this race when you feel like you’re never going to leave the Phoenix Park. I think I may be alone in this, but when I leave the park at the 9.5 (ish) mile mark, it always feel like a massive relief and that I’ve broken the back of the race. Like all the hard stuff is behind me! Of course, that isn’t true but in my head, it’s a big relief to get that section done, get out of the park and move onto the rest, ie. the bits I enjoy!

I drank about half a bottle of Lucozade Sport between 9.5 – 10 miles and was feeling fine. At 10 miles, I was at 1.26. My Garmin was still telling me that my miles were faster than the plan so I was still conscious of trying to slow it down a bit and my mantra for the day soon became “What do I have to give? I’ve got time to give” So, frickin give it already! There were 2 BIG hills that I had forgotten about on this course where you run beneath 2 underpasses between Chapelizod and St Laurence’s Road. I must have blocked these out… I took it really easy on these climbs- my legs had already had a good amount of up and down from the first 10 miles of the course and I knew there would be more to come. All this up and down can mess with your legs so reckless sprinting up hills just to prove to yourself that you feel awesome right now is just stupid. ( I speak from experience of being stupid. And stupid again. And again.)

Straight, flat into Inchicore and towards Kilmainham Royal Hospital. Great! I loved this bit. Loads of people lined the street in Inchicore and one of the highlights of the race for me is the AWESOME crowds of supporters in Kilmainham. You have to climb uphill through Kilmainham before turning onto the South Circular Road but I hardly ever notice it because of all the cheering, clapping and brilliant atmosphere here. As we ran down the South Circular Road, the rain had stopped completely and a perfect rainbow appeared in the sky. A good omen. Thanks Gran 😉

I jinxed myself. Second later, I could feel discomfort on my left side, which in no time flared up into a sharp stitch. Culprits: (a) breakfast too late (I ate 3.5 hours before…should’ve been enough); (b) digestion issues; or (c) my body was struggling to deal with the lucozade/ clif shots I had taken on during the race. I have practiced with eating/drinking on the run so this wasn’t new but I was taking on slightly more I normally would so this may have been it. I had to slow down. I was pissed. I was just after going over the halfway mark (1:52.42), feeling really good, happy with the pace, legs fine, looking forward to the next part of the course… and then bam. It’s a bitch. But I had no choice. It was a really sharp pain so I slowed right down, tried to massage it out and breathe into the stitch. It had faded out by the time we reached the 16 mile marker, but was annoying because every time I tried to up the pace, it seemed to get worse. No choice but to tread carefully for the next few miles. Luckily, it subsided but I could still feel a little something there so I remained conscious for the remainder of the race about not taking in too much of anything. Needs must.

Shout out to the crowds around Dolphin’s Barn, who were only massive 😀

As we turned onto the Cromwellsfort Road and down onto the Kimmage Road, the wind suddenly became tough. It was strong and it was in your face for this stretch of road, which is dismal and bleak at the best of times. I took my second clif shot at 16 with some water and then we turned onto Fortfield Road to begin my favourite 3 mile stretch of the course. From Fortfield, through Terenure village and along Orwell is all leafy suburban Dublin and it is just beautiful in autumn. The crowds are always excellent, with so many people handing out sweets, drinks, gels and all unbelievably wrapped up in the spirit of the race. It’s an absolute tonic for the runners who by this stage (mile 17-19.5) are starting to feel the aches and doubts creep in.

Running down Fortfield Road, the rain was largely stopped, though there was intermittent spells of drizzle. To be fair, the rain was not heavy for the most part of the morning and I was thankful. The wind, however, remained for the duration and it was just a matter of sticking the head down and trying to ignore it. A brown paper bag of jelly beans from the “Terenure Jellies” people helped 😀 Trundling alongside Bushy Park, I grabbed lots of high fives from the kids lining the walls and then it was into Terenure village (where there were more brilliant supporters) to pass the 18 mile point. I was feeling good again and reckoned this was probably what people refer to as the “second wave” of energy. For the first time, I was feeling comfortable in my run and more relaxed.

Pace? Still faster per mile than it should have been but again, I didn’t feel as if I was pushing too hard. I reminded myself that I was ahead time-wise, so could afford to slow down and reserve some energy for the later miles. I also knew that there would be a few big climbs coming from 20-23 miles, so that energy would be needed.

Second wave? Yep, that wave broke shortly after as I approached the 19 mile mark and the miles started to go by much slower. Milltown was tough. Not gonna lie here folks, it’s a steep climb and long enough to reduce people around me to a walk. I slowed right down but kept running. My usual long run route at home has a couple of big ass climbs around this point so this probably helped out here. I also knew that I had lots of time to spare so I was content to slow it right down and take my time. I think not feeling pressurised at this point really helped and despite wind, giant hills and marathon distance running, I was able to relax somewhat and enjoy everything around me. I was able to enjoy this moment and I loved it.

I crossed the 20 mile point in under 3 hours for the first time ever, and clocked in at around 2:54. I nursed a full bottle of Lucozade between 19-21.5 miles but I couldn’t turn down another bottle at mile 22 when it was handed to me by no other than Kerry’s Colm “Gooch” Cooper. What a nice, down-to-earth fella and gave me such a smile on my face that it carried me right over Heartbreak Hill (albeit slowly…)

YAY!!! Suddenly we were coasting downhill and turning left onto the Stillorgan Road and the 23 mile point, which I am never so happy to see! Only 5km left to go and apart from a short climb onto the overpass, it’s a flat run from there. I looked at my watch and at 23 miles, I was at 3:22 ish – my Garmin and the course were a little out of sync… I didn’t care because either way, I had loads of time to make it under 4 hours…. unless I got run over, knocked over, fell, got cramp, got sick, collapsed, went into cardiac arrest… I was taking nothing for granted. I went easy and tried to just enjoy it.

I felt good heading down Nutley Lane and crossing the 24 mile mark and despite telling myself that it’s fine too slow down if you like because I’ve plenty of time to spare, my legs kind of just wanted to keep going. I was running purely by feel. This was mostly what I let guide me in this race and thus far, it had worked just fine. I started to stiffen up from mile 24-25 but I had a few jelly babies to make me feel better 🙂 Suddenly, it was the last 1.2 miles and the crowds of people lining the streets started to grow. Huge crowds. THANK YOU thank you thank you all. Lots of people were walking at this point, some were stopped, stretching out cramps and the support for those struggling from fellow runners and supporters alike, was wonderful.

Final stretch was down Northumberland Road and onto Mount street and then… yay…. I could see the neon green finish line!!!!!!!!! Somewhere along the way, I heard my Godmother call my name and I looked over and somehow managed to spot her in the throngs of people lining the rails. I felt really good for this last part and ran strong to the finish line, where I was met by a really sound volunteer who gave me the biggest high five, congratulated me and told me I’d run a great run. He was so genuine, I nearly cried.

The bling.
The bling.

Moments later, I also met 86 year old Harry Gorman, a former National Marathon champion who was volunteering for the day. How incredible is that? I shook his hand and had a brief chat, before congratulating a random stranger (who told me “never again!”) and heading down the finishers’ chute to collect my medal, t-shirt and goodie bag. I had a good stretch, before walking around to meet my mum and godmother nearby. Super to have these ladies with me on the day and it really transforms the day into a special day.

ALL the bling
ALL the bling

I ran under the clock in 3.52.57 and my official finish time was 3:50:54, bringing my marathon PR down by 8 minutes and my Dublin marathon PR down by 14 minutes 41 second from 4.05.35. I couldn’t believe it and still can’t.

20151026_143109
YAY!!

Last year, I was so focused on time/pace/a 4 hour goal, that I hardly enjoyed the race. I missed my goal and was felt disappointed at the end of it. This year, I didn’t really have a goal, except to enjoy it and try to relax into the pace. I ended up smashing my pb AND I massively enjoyed it. There is a message in here. In fact, there are multiple messages in here. Firstly, that pace cannot be forced and conversely, that to run better/faster, you need to relax more and push less. Obviously, there is a balance here and “relax” is of course, in context! Secondly, this is an amazing race with arguably one of the best, friendliest atmospheres of any race around the world so enjoy it. Let yourself do this and you will never be disappointed.

Incredible day and thanks to all of the volunteers, organisers and the many people who turned out in the rain and wind yesterday for HOURS and who make this race as special as it is. I will be back next year and already, I cannot wait.

I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off running and filling my face with lots of nice things for the next few days. Time for recovery.

Starting with this...handsome devil.
Starting with this…handsome devil.

My Splits:

8.15

8.05

8.30

8.18

8.41

8.33

8.38

8.27

8.30

8.19

8.46

8.42

8.44

9.15 (horrible stitch…had to slow it right down)

8.52

8.53

9.06

8.49

9.01

8.45

9.04

9.28 (my slowest mile: big climbs circa 22 miles and heartbreak hill)

9.02

8.57

9.06

8.49

7.58 pace for the last .2 miles!

10km: 52.53

Halfway: 1.52.42

30km: 2.42.39

Finish: 3.50.54