Going Further

Going further

In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.

With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?

Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.

But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…

Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.

So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.

Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.

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I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.

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What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?

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After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀

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After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.

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Nice design and good, friendly atmosphere, you can’t go wrong.

The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.

Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.

Running Injuries: Light at the End of the Tunnel

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I know you all must be just dying to know how my foot injuries are progressing – it is such an exciting topic, I fully understand. No, it’s really not. I’m bored talking about it, telling people about it, explaining why I can’t run, what happened (or didn’t happen- because like most running injuries, there isn’t just one big kablam moment where the injury occurs…) etc, etc. However, given that this is a running blog (kinda 😉 ) and that I’ve talked about the injuries quite a bit on here, I feel for the continuity sake, I should pop an update up.

Having seen two physios, my GP, two orthopaedic surgeons and ran multiple blood tests, MRI and xrays, my most recent visit was to a rheumatologist. It had been suggested to me that a possible cause of my ongoing foot pain (along the base of both feet and around the lateral parts and under the toe areas) could perhaps be a rheumatological issue. In particular, it was speculated that I could have rheumatoid arthritis.

The Good News!

Rheumatologist said I most likely do NOT have rheumatoid arthritis. Yay! Of course being a doctor, he wouldn’t say that I definitely did not have it, but he ruled it out for the moment, which I’ll take and run to the hills with as fast as I can.

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His view was that the likely cause of my foot pain was due to the mechanics of my feet -which is what the last orthopaedic surgeon thought AND also what my new physio has said too.

The Boring Details

Essentially, I have a bad bunion on my left foot which has caused my big toe to lean so far inwards that it has rendered the big toe essentially ineffective in terms of the running motion. When the foot hits the ground, the normal movement is for the foot to roll from heel through the foot and then push off from the big toe. My big toe is turned so far inward that the foot basically is not rolling off the toe, but rather off the bunion. The other toes on that foot are also doing more work than they should be and taking more of the impact than they should be as a result of the redundant big toe. This too has caused the lateral arch running beneath the toes to collapse somewhat (explaining the pain in that area). The joints have also become more angled as a result of the constant impact of running.

Blah blah blah… to sum up? Bad foot biomechanics.

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These are not my feet- but no one wants to look at those. Dog feet every time.

The Bad News

All those aforementioned experts voiced the opinion that running marathons is probably too much for my feet given the fundamental limitations of their structure. They can’t take the constant pounding that feet with good structure and mechanics can – it’s simply too much. The physio that I’m seeing now has worked with athletes for many years and her opinion is that i should stick to triathlons and runs up to the distance of a half-marathon.

I’m not going to lie to you, while I know what she is saying makes complete sense, I have not completely accepted this. At least, not yet. There are so many marathon races around the world that I would love, love, LOVE to do (Boston, NYC, London, Berlin…how are ya?) that I’m not quite ready to let all that go. I’ve dreamed about these for years and you only live once. (Or at least, I can only remember living one lifetime!) In my head, I know they’re right but in my heart, this is too far a leap just at the moment. This is something that will take a while for me to come around to.

The Best News

Despite what I just said, the best news IN THE WORLD is that with more rest, careful rehabilitation and oodles of patience, there is no reason why I will not be able to run again. I also don’t (touching all the wood) have rheumatoid arthritis or any other lifelong horrible limiting condition that I have to live with, which I am so grateful for. These two things are without doubt, the greatest news and the relief and hope I feel right now is pure awesome.

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I got some new orthotics custom made by the new physio (thank you Eileen) and am currently breaking these in, as well as doing the exercises and stretches she has prescribed.

I am also one with my bike at the moment, despite the crappy weather and multiple named storms that have swept our not-so-green island the last few weeks. Biking to work some days, biking at the weekend and oh how wet all that gear can get…

Alas, a good excuse to buy more gear because hey, I need a second string of clothes while the others are drying 😀

Runners and Injuries: Not Letting Panic Triumph Over Hope

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This is a subject extremely close to my heart. In fact, it’s so close to the surface that I’d swear if you stood close enough to me, you might just be able to hear my heart beating out “Help me, I’m a runner”…

I’m going through this right now. I may not be an elite athlete, but I am 100% a runner at heart. It’s what makes me smile, lifts me up, allows me to escape everything for a few hours everyday and honestly makes me feel like some kind of superhero. On the outside, I might look like a hot, sweaty, flailing mess… but on the inside I feel like Mo Farah. I feel like me.

One missed session in my weekly training plan makes me uncomfortable and I’m very bad at just “letting it go” but sometimes weather or unforeseen events just happen and you have to suck it up.

One week without running – usually only happens when I’ve just ran a big race like a marathon or half-ironman – I struggle with not being able to get out for a run for this long because regardless of how physically tired my body might be, I miss the fresh air and time outside, the peace and quiet. But I persevere for the sake of rest and meaningful recovery.

Suck it up.

More than one week… Huh???!! It has been years since I’ve gone more than 10-14 days with no running. Sometimes you do need a good rest as a runner and head-wrecking and all as it may be, you tolerate it because you KNOW that in a few weeks time, you’ll be back out there slowly building yourself back up again.

You KNOW. So… suck it up.

Now, try telling a runner that they can’t run today, or tomorrow or even this week. In fact, it could be as long as a year… Actually, I can’t tell you when you’ll next be able to go for a run or even if you’ll ever be able to run again.

To a runner, this is devastating news. For me, I just couldn’t accept it right away – it was too much to deal with all at once and it took months for me to even come around to the idea and I still haven’t fully accepted it. When you’re used to being able to lace up and get out in the fresh air – just you and your radio – and plod along to your own rhythm, it becomes a massive part of who you are and when it suddenly gets ripped away, you feel lost – like a big part of you has suddenly been whipped away and crazy as it sounds – it takes a while for you to come around to this new version of yourself that doesn’t run every day.

You suddenly feel  – as if you’re not you anymore.

Trauma. Grief. Loss.

Heartbreak.

I don’t say these things to be flippant. I have massively missed running and the goodness it brings to my life. Life without running has left a great hole that I simply cannot fill with cycling or swimming. I have been cranky, intolerant, impatient, angry, sad, an utter basket-case at times (on multiple occasions) and I’ve cried big fat tears of frustration and loss for my life as a runner on several occasions. I’m pretty sure my Dad (poor man has witnesses a number of my ridiculous meltdowns) thinks I’m a complete nut-job but then of course that’s how it must appear to sane people on the outside.

The Phases of Running Grief – not kidding, there are actual phases …

1. Blanket denial – the physio doesn’t know what she’s talking about… she’s talking out her arse – sure I know more about running than she does and I definitely know my own body better than anyone else. I’ll be grand in a few weeks. Your biggest worry at this stage is loss of fitness – worrying about losing the good place you’re at that you’ve worked so hard to get to. Your nervous that your sub 3.45 marathon goal may have to wait till next season.

2. Bargaining – Loss of control and helplessness make the control freak runner in you start to try and rationalise it all in a vain attempt to regain some control – what if I do this next time? What if I did that better?

3. Anger – After a few weeks, nothing is better, the injury is still there and you start to panic when the realisation that it might be quite a while before you’re able to run again starts to feel real.

I followed my plan… why am I injured and X, Y and Z are not? It’s not fair… I did everything I was supposed to do? Why is it different to any other training cycle? I should have taken a longer rest after the last marathon… I should have done more strength work…  I should have eaten better… I should have said 3 hail mary’s before every run… I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid……….and why does nobody understand me?! Get away from me…. No, I don’t want chicken soup to make me feel better!!! Aagggghhhhhhh…

4. The Sad Bit – crying in a pathetic curled ball on the floor as your running gear starts to gather dust, as the races you signed up to months ago all come and go.

Mourning the loss of running as a friend and of that huge part of you that is tied up in running. It’s not just a hobby- it’s who you are first thing in the morning, the feeling you carry with you all day having completed a great run that morning, Parkrun with you friends on a Saturday morning and coffee afterwards, the long run on a Sunday morning listening to the Marian Finuacan radio show and the heavenly after-feeling of that effort as you chill on the sofa drinking coffee, watching Downton Abbey.

Acceptance? Nah. See number 1. I’m an optimist and I love running far too much to ever give up on the idea that I could be out there running some day soon.

I choose hope, rehabilitation and optimism. So maybe I’ll have to keep spinning the wheels of this cycle for a little while longer- going through the phases of denial, anger, sadness – but I won’t stop hoping and I won’t give up.

I saw a new physiotherapist this week and for the first time since I got injured I heard the words “I see no reason why you shouldn’t recover and get back to running”. Like the saddo I am, I nearly cried when she said this. It’s the first positive thing I’ve heard from the rounds of Doctors, physios, orthopaedic surgeons and other specialists in a year. She gave me hope – she didn’t promise anything and she did stress that the first goal would be to get back to a place where I have no pain in my feet just as is. Then, we can look to bringing walking back. Only after that can we even consider bringing running back in.

This could take quite a while to get to that stage but right now, I feel hope – I can see a finish line. Not sure of the distance yet but I can see one drifting about in the wind somewhere out there – I just have to be patient, follow the right path and not be stupid.

Then maybe, just maybe… I’ll be a runner again.

Good Pains in Strange Places

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I’ve started going to the gym and for the first time in a long time, I’m bringing back strength and conditioning sessions in a big way. But boy, it does hurt so good.

Strength and conditioning is an area I confess to having neglected in all my years running. Lifting dumbbells, doing squats and squeezing out a few press-ups are all the types of exercise I would typically hate. I always felt they were boring exercises- like sport without any of the joy. Coming up to marathon training time, I’d resolve to make sure I did at least one proper session per week and then also including a few exercises in my everyday post-run routine, such as heel lifts, wall-sits and planks.

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But in all honesty, I probably have not been doing as much as I should have been doing and now that I’m out of (temporarily!) the running game and sitting on the sidelines, injured for the foreseeable, I can’t help but wonder if I had been more diligent about my strength and conditioning training, I might not be injured right now. I might still be running about blissfully ignorant and injury-free.

I’m not a shoulda, coulda, woulda person though, so I bring this up as topic not to dwell on the past but to learn, plan and build for the future. I want to be stronger, I want to be faster and I always want to be better. (I don’t need to be higher 😉 )

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…and I always want to eat scones.

What’s the Plan?

Joined a gym, had a personal consultation and have a training plan. 2-3 days a week, I’ll be doing an hour of strength work, mixed with a short interval of cardio. In addition to that, I’ll be out on the bike at weekends and as the days start to get longer, I hope to get out a few mornings or evenings before or after work. I hope to get in one or two swims during the week too.

My program consists of:

  • Chest presses
  • Leg presses
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Russian Twists
  • Face Pulls
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • 15-20 minutes cardio (I’m having a go at rowing to try something different…)

Nothing revolutionary here – and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably be very familiar with most of these exercises. What I like particularly about this program is that it aims to build a basic level of strength and it also incorporate specific exercises that will be good for running, when I start back.

Leg presses will help develop the quad muscles as well as the glutes – also excellent for cycling (and my butt!)

Step-ups are a simple but excellent strengthening exercise that every runner should be including in their daily routine –  as well as the exercise helping to work the glutes, quads and your core, this move also helps to develop good balance and running form. I quite like doing these too.

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Planks and Russian Twists – work your core/ abs mostly but planks are an overall excellent strength exercise.

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I did the full program for the first time during the week and while I enjoyed doing that night… oh my sweet Lord, did it hurt the next day. I know since not being able to run for 10 months, my arms, abs (and general upper body) have just gone to flop. You just don’t use your arms that much on the bike and your entire upper body is more or less stationary for the entire ride – you don’t use it at all the way you do when running. So right now, I have NO upper body strength. It’s pathetic.

I could not lift my arms above waist height on Thursday after my weights session on Wednesday night. And there were aches and tendernesses in back muscles and shoulder places I have never felt before. Have you ever seen a person trying to massage their own back muscles? Not an attractive look. I cared not!

So onward and strong-ward! If you are also someone who has been avoiding strength work because you too find it boring and tedious, please PLEASE heed my advice and just do it anyway. Find a way to get it into your week – if you’re not someone who enjoys lifting dumbbells or churning out squats, then go to a class like bodypump or bootcamp. Ignore this element of your training and it could end up costing you dearly – both literally or figuratively.

Let me put to you this way – would you rather spend your hard earned wages on physiotherapy, MRI scans, doctor’s appointments, blood tests and consultant visits (still with no diagnosis or end in sight…) OR on the entry fee to the Boston Marathon?

Easy, right?

 

Let’s Talk About Feet (again)

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Full disclosure-these are not my feet but I love this picture. Happy feet or what?!

I’ve talked about my feet so many times on this blog that I’m starting to feel they have more of a presence than I have on here. In fairness, their drama, trips, days out, dates and life in general has been far more exciting than my own of late…

For those who don’t know (and have been saved that pedi-saga) I injured both feet in the run-up to the Paris marathon 2016, in or about March last year, which has resulted in me being benched from running for nearly 10 months now. Since then, I’ve seen numerous physiotherapists, a GP, a chiropodist and two orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in feet – all of whom have given me a different diagnosis in terms of the source of the pain in my feet. The first physio told me it was soft tissue damage, “just a battering” from all the marathon training. The second physio (from the same clinic) told me it was NOT a soft tissue injury at all, rather it was more likely a rheumatological condition, possibly rheumatoid arthritis.

On foot of what physio no.2 said, I visited my GP who ran blood tests which confirmed no inflammatory markers in my bloods. So, she ruled out the possibility that the cause of my foot pain was rheumatoidal. She referred me on to an orthopaedic specialist who specialises in foot problems on the basis that the pain could be a result of a stress fracture. On inspection of my feet, this orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that indeed the source of my foot pain was most likely a result of a stress fracture – 90% sure it was a stress fracture in the 5th metatarsal – to be precise.

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Went for an MRI… went back to Mr. Ortho… no stress fracture, anywhere in my feet. He then promptly informed me that he could do nothing further for me given that the problem did not appear to be a bone problem nor could he offer any opinion on what was wrong with my feet.

At this point, I cried.

It had been 9 months of different experts, with wildly different views on what is wrong with my damn feet. And here I was, after spending a chunk of money on all these guys and having not been able to go for a run in so long standing in a car park outside a hospital thinking I’m never going to be able to run again…. and not one person can tell me what is wrong with me. So I cried. With my Dad (who had kindly come with me to the appointment) looking at me like I was crazytown.

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This week I went to see another orthopaedic (foot) surgeon for a second opinion, which if nothing else, was hilarious. What my mother calls a good old-fashioned surgeon- glasses, dicky bow, abrupt, utterly unsympathetic, impatient and entirely forthright and opinionated – I loved it. After examining my feet, he took the view that I have basically bad feet. I have splayed, wide feet, with bunions, swelling in the forefoot and collapsed arches – basically, all these factors combined mean that the mechanics of my feet is all off. He told me that the custom orthotics I had made many years ago were useless on their own and that they would not be effective without accompanying exercises to make them work.

So what did he decide should be the next step? A physio! No, but not just anyone, he specifically recommended a Dublin physio who has worked with Athletics Ireland specialising in sports injuries with good experience. Given that this glowing referral came from a man who strikes me as exceptionally hard to impress, I’m expecting great things. I’m honestly very excited and feeling more positive about this than I have in months.

I have an appointment in 2 weeks time and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I also have an appointment to see a rheumatologist to investigate my Reynaud’s and just to rule out any rheumatoidal cause of my foot pain.

For the moment, I am still cycling away at weekend and early mornings before work, when I can. The mornings are slowly getting brighter earlier and the days are starting to stretch out and I can’t wait for those long Summer days… I also just joined a gym to action my new year’s resolution to get stronger this year. Strength and conditioning is an area I’ve neglected for a long time and I’m hoping if I can work on it, it might help with my feet/ knee/other injuries going forward.

Injuries suck, no doubt. I miss running massively. Word. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like there’s hope that maybe some day in the near (ish) future, one of these experts will tell me it’s time to run again.

And what a wonderful day that will be. Happy running folks, enjoy!

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!

Saucony Triumph ISO 2 Review

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I’ve been a big fan of Saucony running shoes for quite some time, having discovered the Kinvara 3 in 2013 (ish) while training for the 2013 Dublin Marathon. Before that, I spent a regrettable amount of time ploughing the roads in a clumpy pair of Asics Nimbus mostly because of all the hype at the time about how Asics were the best when it came to running shoes. The sales chap in the shop had been of a similar level of enthusiasm about Asics and he convinced me that the Nimbus were exactly the right shoe for me.

They were not.

Sheep following sheep.

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I hated that pair of shoes more than any other pair of shoes I have ever owned.

After that, I decided from then on, I would make my own mind up about what makes a good running shoe and most importantly, what shoe is best for my feet. Cica, cica, whatever…

I played around with different types of running shoes, including the Vibram Minimus, which I out-and-out loved. Did a fair bit of marathon training in these, including long runs and just fell in love with how light I felt on my feet when I ran.

Running in shoes like the Minimus made me realise that how much I loved running in a lighter shoe. I was, however, conscious of balancing out the minimalist running with running in something with more structure and cushioning. This led me to the Saucony Kinvara 3 – a low weight, flexible, 4mm drop running shoe, with more structure than the Minimus but still sold as a minimalist running shoe.

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I wore these shoes to death, I loved them that much. Supremely comfortable and fast, even over a long run. I wore these for the 2013 Dublin Marathon and was delighted with how they performed.

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They make look a tad outdated now but this is a surprisingly comfortable shoe and quick as you like.

Fast forward to 2016 –  I’ve since bought many more pairs of Kinvaras, moving with the times as Saucony brought out the 4s, 5s and 6s. Last year I felt that I might need something more cushioned and got myself a pair of Saucony Zealots, which I wore in tandem with the Kinvaras. You can read a review of the Zealot here and a comparison between the two here. Essentially, the Zealot is still a neutral, 4mm low drop shoe but with a lot more plushy cushioning, which consequently means slightly more weight.

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Saucony Zealot ISO

I was mighty happy running in the Zealots until I recently picked up stress fractures in my feet (TBC), which has since provoked a lot (far too much, no doubt…) of pondering about whether I should be wearing a more cushioned or structured shoe, particularly for marathon training.

I’ve been wanting to experiment with some of Saucony’s other shoes for quite some time anyway so this has been the perfect excuse… Enter the Triumph!

Saucony Triumph ISO 2

Saucony Triumph ISO 2
Saucony Triumph ISO 2… gnarly colours. I feel badass just looking at them.

The Triumph is Saucony’s top of the line neutral, cushioning shoe. Weighing in at 8.6 oz (women) and featuring an 8mm heel to toe drop, the Triumph is the next step up from the Kinvara.

First Impressions
Very plush, lots of cushioning, gorgeous design with striking colours and shockingly comfortable.
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Features
The heel to toe drop in the Triumph is 8mm, as compared with 4mm in the Kinvara and Zealot which I’ve been running with for years. I’m interested to see how this will bare out, particularly over longer runs and speed sessions.
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Kinvara 4mm drop Vs. Triumph 8mm drop
Cushioning – ample. Particularly noticeable in the heel counter and the “ISO Fit” tongue, which claims to provide a closer fit feel by morphing to your foot for a custom feel. The shoe definitely feels snug without being annoying or suffocating, which is something that has bothered me about other shoes in the past.
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Responsive – This is an exceedingly comfortable shoe and your foot sinks into the heel counter very nicely. Yet despite this, there is a surprising amount of spring in the bounceback. Enough give to take the hard feel of the road away, but with a decent energy return to propel you on to the next stride.
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Fit – I have wide ugly feet so finding comfortable shoes can be challenging. Not here. These shoes fit like a glove – a fitted shoe that I feel comfortable to tie a tight lace but for once doesn’t leave me feeling like I can’t wait to take them off. The Kinvara 4s were a tad too narrow and the 5s had far too much room in the toe box, but as Cinderalla would say, the fit on these is just right. The heel counter is good and snug too, allowing the heel to sit firmly in place and again, with enough cushioning to counter any heel rubbing.
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Underneath –  Saucony have changed the layout on the sole of the shoe as it existed on its predecessor. The outsole of the Triumph is actually quite similar to the Kinvara 7 and uses what Saucony call “Tri-Flex” technology. This v-pattern design is meant to provide improved ground contact, pressure distribution and propulsion at toe off.
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As you can see below, there is a good amount of iBR+ rubber along the length of the shoe. This should allow for good traction, as well as good distribution of weight/ pressure –  a point which should also aid in injury prevention in the foot area. The durability of the outsole rubber remains to be seen and I have found this to be an issue with Saucony shoes in the past.
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Forefoot – Soft light mesh materials in the forefoot area allow for breathability and a light feel. A single panel of material, with no sewing or interference across the top of the toe area.
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Everun – Ever what? Everun is a new Saucony technology which is essentially a layer of elastic foam which claims to provide more energy return and maintains its energy return longer than most midsole foams. This extra layer is positioned directly underneath the removable insole. It’s also featured in the heel of the shoe
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Sound familiar? Probably because you’ve heard it many times before, only it was called Adidas Boost. Same principle. Boost is a midsole cushioning technology involving a cluster of springy urethane granules that are bonded together and placed between the upper and outsole.
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This is Saucony’s explanation of Everun tech.
The insole of the shoe is regular foam. Take this out and you will see a white foamy layer looking back at you. This is the urethane layer, or Everun. Like a second insole. On the Triumph, Saucony have also included an extra chunk of this in the heel.
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You see that pink wedge in the heel (diamond grid pattern)? That’s a wedge of Everun inserted into the heel.
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Conclusions
I’ve had these shoes for less than a week so it is far too soon to make any conclusions. First impressions are that this will be a comfortable, snug ride for long runs and marathon training, which should prove more forgiving and generous than the Kinvara.
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I look forward to giving them a good solid testing. Full review to follow!