Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pierce Turner

If you fall off your horse (they say) get back on straightaway. So off I go on the DART back to Killiney this morning for my long run. And an improvement, though it's still not great. 11.92 miles at 10.05m/m, with the last three miles being emphatically the quickest - a pattern I often see. Wonder why that is? Another 27 miles on the week - that's OK for the moment. I'll increase that a bit leading up to Connemara on 22 March.

This week I resolved to take enough cash for the DART home if necessary. (Probably a bad thing to do mentally, as inferred by Thomas in his comment about last week.) Anyway it turned out I'd mistaken 1 euro coins for 2 euros, so once again I wouldn't have had enough. Feck, I've not yet got to grips with decimalisation in 1969, now this euro business is the last straw. I'm going to become one of those old fellas that just tips his loose change onto the bar for the bartender to sort out.

Phedippidations 169 dealt with massage therapy to deal with the cause and effect of injury, often away from the source of the pain. As is wise in the case of such material delivered to a wide, mainly US, audience Steve read out a lengthy legal disclaimer. But for an American he has a keen sense of the ridiculous and I was laughing out loud as the disclaimer increased in speed and pitch - very clever.

And then I rediscovered Pierce Turner, a singer/songwriter from Wexford. Very much an undiscovered talent despite many years in the business this guy turns out some wonderful music (some turkeys amongst them as well, especially on The Boy To Be With album). He gets away with lyrics that most would struggle to make music with. For example, in The Sky And The Ground he talks about a family of junkies

...slobbering over a cup of tea, refuge for as long as allowed
with the breakfast special crowd
and these are the respectable ones, they don't steal or rob
holding it together in some mysterious way
juggling the juice and the children's allowance...
Click the title to link to his website - neglected, as are his general attempts to court any decent publicity. But buy his Best Of/Compilation. You won't be disappointed.

Red Letter Day

Kevin Woods (12) is one of the few boys braving the female hordes which comprise the Crusaders AC juniors. He's a good little athlete. And in the last few weeks he's started to run more strongly and, importantly, with confidence. On Thursday evening he even turned the heads of a few seniors as he ran an impressive though untimed 800m at the end of the session.

Today at Raheny it was jubilation all round as young Woods won the 800m road race for children of 12 and under. Although unable to start in the front line as he wished, he nevertheless worked his way into a good position, though one lad went off like a rocket. Around the back of All Saints Park a white vest was showing in second place. And to great excitement it was Kevin in the lead by 10 metres or so as they turned into the final straight, with the early leader a beaten man.

But there was more. Matthew Behan scrapped well with a crowd of runners to get 5th place. And Kevin's younger brother James (10) also finished strongly. Behind them were 15 or 16 other Crusaders flying the flag with great credit and pride. In the second race for the older juniors, if one accepts the mile measurement, a Finn Valley lad who really looked the part, clocked a remarkable 4.19 with Fiachra Thirroueiz just inside the six-minute mark which was a great effort.

A landmark day for the club. Success and achievement breeds more of the same. And the Dublin running community is starting to see the unusual sight of the Crusaders' white and red singlet out there competing with the best.

For me the Raheny 5 (the main race which followed) sort of marked the beginning of my second year in Ireland. Living in a hotel in January 2008 I acted as men's dressing room attendant at Raheny last year. And, though I didn't see much racing, the dressing rooms have never been left as neat, clean and tidy! I didn't suspect then that a year later I'd be in charge of a race winner.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

High jump in January?

Smiles on faces at Irishtown as the sun shone, albeit weakly. The damaged high-jump cover, fortified with black plastic, sandbags and scaffolding poles was dragged off the bed. The young athletes were split and Moya, Marion and Jim looked after one group whilst I led the HJ session. And the kids were just great. grasping the basics of the flop immediately. Even the one or two six and seven-year olds hurled themselves into the air with gay abandon. Thank goodness for the flexibar with which the little ones can jump without fear of a bruise.

I still read that it is unwise to deliver the Fosbury Flop to children under 11. All I can say is that I have been coaching HJ for a number of years now without any sort of problem. I used to be bemused that - in my Channel Islands days, Guernsey's youngsters invariably jumped with the scissors technique whilst we (Jersey) were all floppers. And yes, the odd long-legged girl from Guernsey used to win, but it was hardly conducive to building for the future.

And even Dale Darland, Guernsey's Olympian athlete (and a nicer guy you couldn't hope to meet) would perform an old-fashioned straddle when called upon to do high jump for points.

And then, with an eye on Raheny tomorrow we had an 800m race. A win for the only boy James Woods, an exellent second by Ciara Barry who is by nature a sprinter, but a remarkable run by Aoife Walsh who is still only six.

1. James Woods (U12) 3.20.0
2. Ciara Barry (U13) 3.23.5
3. Rachel Maher (U13) 3.26.2
4. Ella Thirrouiez (U11) 3.43.0
5. Orla Murray (U13) 3.43.8
6. Grainne McGuill (U13) 3.58.9
7. Jemima Mulligan (U13) 4.04.2
8. Aoife Walsh (U8) 4.07.1
9. Niamh Ferry (U12) 4.21.1
10. Jessica Hanley (U12) 4.23.5
11. Isabel O'Leary (U12) 4.24.0
12. Olibhia Collins (U12) 4.29.3
13. Juliet Storan (U12) 4.31.3
14. Rachel Mullaley 4.32.9
15. Katie Crilly 4.37.6
Laura Ferry also finished.

Friday, January 23, 2009

JJ Barry

The girls were too polite to say, but you could hear them thinking 'what's the point of having an Irish hurdles champion on your team if he can't pass a baton?' Katie, Emily & Roisin you can hold your heads high in defeat. As for JJ Barry (Irish 400mH champion 1986-88) it's extra relay practice.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Not A Good Run

Now and again all runners have a bit of a nightmare run. These happen for no logical reason. You can look for all sort of excuses - training pattern, illness, lack of sleep, recent diet. But when you have eliminated these reasons you've just got to accept it as 'one of those days'. And I figure that you've got to live through these bad runs to fully appreciate the good ones.

On a bleak Dublin Sunday morning I hopped on the DART out to Killiney, a seaside town a dozen miles south of the city and home to several well-known and monied celebrities, most notably Bono of the band U2. The plan was an easy run back to town. Killiney Hill/Vico Road, at the beginning of the run, is a tester anyway. But as I made my way through Dalkey and Sandycove I became very aware that his was a day when my legs were not co-operating. There was nothing there at all. As I approached Dun Laoghaire I decided to cut my losses and headed for the DART station, after only 4.5 miles. I had €2.25 in my pocket after the outward journey. I keyed into the ticket machine my destination station of Pearse - the machine demanded €2.30. Cursing, I tried Grand Canal Dock, the next one back down the line. Still €2.30. In high dudgeon I marched out of the station and turned again for home.

I trudged through the Dun Laoghaire harbour area and up towards Blackrock. Feeling marginally better I stubbornly ignored the DART station there. Through Blackrock Park and past Booterstown DART, now determined to complete the run. Plenty of walk breaks though. Along the ever-popular Sandymount Strand, through Sean Moore Park, along Pigeon House Road, over the East Link and a last mile upriver into the teeth of the freshening wind. 12.02 miles @ 11.19m/m - this pace damaged by many walk breaks, fiddling with iPod and the DART ticket machine fail. Not my finest running day but at least 27 miles in the diary for the week and hopefully better to come.

My iPod listening included Phedippidations 168 on Exercise Induced Asthma. Another good show and, although my only running impediments are being old, overweight and rubbish, Steve's shows include much more than the title subject. Then a couple of Fighting Talk episodes, the second of which the curmudgeonly Tom Watt did his best to ruin single-handed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Canadian Invaders

Crusaders' junior athletics continues to grow in popularity in this early part of 2009. On Tuesdays & Thursdays we work with the slightly older children, 10 years upwards. We had a record number of 16 last Tuesday. This brought its own problems as Tuesday is also the night that the distance runners use the track. And of course they are out in force as New Year resolutions kick in. Not to speak of two groups of sprinters and a number of athletes working on their own. Throw into the mix the fact that the infield was still out of bounds due to Brent Geese fortifications then the only place for us to work was on the high-jump fan. But we managed.

On Thursday the track was comparatively deserted and the juniors a few less in number. But this morning the children were back in force, about 30 in all ranging from age 6 upwards. Moira was back in coaching harness, albeit still on crutches. She travels in from Roundwood, high in the Wicklow Hills, three times a week which is some commitment.

The groundstaff must have judged that the Brent Geese have now taken flight back to Canada as the infield was blissfully open again today. With the weather closing in rapidly we managed to squeeze in drills, running, hurdles, long jump and throwing foam javelins. Then the 'traditional' 4 x 100m relay in which everyone takes part. With eight teams it was a great spectacle, and a couple of Mums battling it out down the home straight sent everyone off in good spirits as the wind picked up and the rain began to fall.

We have a great bunch of kids, though they are mainly from one neighbouring school. To really progress the club we need to expand our net, but we will also need more coaches - the old story.

Next Sunday we are having a mass invasion of Raheny for the childrens' races at the big Raheny 5 road race.

**By clicking the title you can link to a nice pic of our feathered friends who nevertheless do their best to destroy Irishtown every winter!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Do Less

Steady enough running this week, hauling my ass out of bed for 3-4 milers. I'm ever-intrigued by Dublin in the early morning and the way the city is becoming alive at 6.45. Of course in the worsening recession everyone is trying to earn a buck. There's a guy has set up a mobile coffee stall on the south quays by Macken Street, for example. The ever-friendly Metro and Herald freesheet girls and boys are a feature of morning Dublin. What crap wage must they be on, presumably before heading off to college or to clock on to some other dead-end job.

Our friends the free parking-space seekers are always in evidence, engines running in the early morning and doing their bit to speed up global warming. I try to remain serene about the bike riders that plague the pavements, mostly without lights. Not confined to Dublin this I know, and I reason that at least it is one less car on the road.

As for my mountain running career I think I have decided that - if God had wanted me to run up and down mountains he'd have given me a rather lither body and cloven hooves. But I might look at doing a one-off like the Wicklow Way Challenge which I know Crusaders target later in the year.

Now, here are some wise words from Tom Hodgkinson and I commend them to you.

The way to thrive in 2009 is simply to join the Idler’s Do Less Campaign. It’s simple: you just do less. That means less shopping, less driving, less holidaying, less working, less spending. And more sitting around at home, more reading, chatting and drinking. Doing less is cheap and easy and it’s kind to the environment. The era which privileged the busy high achiever is coming to an end. That system has been found wanting, and there is a new world out there, a world of more fun, more freedom, more time for reflection and contemplation, community and cooking, making and mending. John Calvin - you have so much to answer for.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feet In The Clouds

If you haven't read Richard Asquith's classic please make it your business to do so. It is one man's discovery of fell running and the characters that have shaped this unique branch of the sport. It will bring to you tales of endurance that makes pussies out of those of us that think running along a road is hard work.

I joined a little club run today at Howth. Four good hill runners, one experienced but a little slower and a couple of us newbies. We were checking out the route for the first league match of the mountain running season which starts next Sunday. And I suppose I survived the initiation - just. I kept up with Niamh and Geraldine whilst the better group jogged ahead but kept checking back to make sure we were OK. 4.3 miles in about an hour which included one particularly fierce climb that had me wondering what I was doing out there.

Now I must decide if I want to put myself through it again in the league, though I was assured I would be fine. I don't know if I have the legs or (more importantly) the heart for it on a regular basis.

But it will have done me the power of good, sacrificing steady miles for the shorter, more intense stuff.

A Blustery Day

Conditions were not great at Irishtown yesterday with a strong wind howling down the field. However that didn't stop 25 or so young athletes turning up. These included a handful of new recruits. Including twin girls. Which, as I have huge difficulty in remembering names anyway just adds to my woes!

The group is completely dominated by females with only a few young lads, who band together for solidarity and who wouldn't dream of joining in with a girls' team for a relay for example.

In my old age I've re-discovered that children like games, and it was a job to get them away from Cat & Mouse and British Bulldog (though in Dublin the 'British' seems to be redundant, not surprisingly). After the ever-popular shuttle relays - though with increasing levels of cheating, we had a long jump contest and a 600m time trial. Unfortunately the strong wind was against the long-jumpers and also against for two straights in the 600m, so the marks set were not great.

Hopefully my coaching colleague Moira will be mobile before too long as this promises to be a busy year.

Long jump - Boys
1. Matthew Behan (U14) 4.31
2. Kevin Woods (U14) 3.60
3. Kevin McDonnell (U14) 3.55
4. James Woods (U12) 3.50
5. Alan Francis (U11) 3.39

Long jump - Girls
1. Jemima Mulligan (U13) 3.15
2. Emily Shiels (U12) 3.15
3. Niamh Ferry (U12) 3.06
4. Grainne McGuill (U13) 2.95
5. Hanna McDevitt (U13) 2.82
6. Clodagh Ferry (U10) 2.80
7. Isabel O'Leary (U12) 2.80
8. Olivia Collins (U12) 2.50
9. Rachel Hanley (U12) 2.50
10. Jessica Hanley (U12) 2.50
11. Ella Thirrouiez (U11) 2.47
12. Aisling Stokes (U13) 2.46
13. Niamh Kenahan (U14) 2.34
14. Roisin McGuill (U11) 2.10
15. Laura Ferry (U9) 1.96
16. Emma O'Leary (U9) 1.72
17. Lauren Hanley (U9) 1.56

600m - Boys
1. Fiachra Thirrouiez (U16) 2.11.5
2. Kevin Woods (U14) 2.14.1
3. Matthew Behan (U14) 2.28.0
4. James Woods ((U12) 2.32.9
5. Alan Francis (U11) 3.12.0
6. Kevin McDonnell (U14) 3.15.3

600m - Girls
1. Ella Thirrouiez (U11) 2.54.7
2. Grainne McGuill (U13) 3.01.9
3. Jemima Mulligan (U13) 3.04.7
4. Rachel Hanley (U12) 3.20.0
5. Isabel O'Leary (U12) 3.20.7
6. Olivia Collins (U12) .39.0
7. Roisin McGuill (U11) 3.46.8
8. Jessica Hanley (U12) 4.09.8
9. Emily Shiels (U12) 4.14.3
10. Lauren Hanley (U9) 4.15.6

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back to work

Back to work at Irishtown with a small group - Kevin, James, Ella, Isabel, Emma, Roisin and new recruit Olivia. Fiachra has stepped up to work with the older group and I think he found a bit of a difference this morning. My 400/800 athlete Viv completed a killer session of 3 x(400/300/200/100) with recoveries of 4, 3, 2 with 10 minutes between sets. A little bit of throwing up involved but that's not a bad thing.
Now here's a picture of the great Ronnie Delaney with the youngsters just before Christmas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Running Shoe Morality

I finally got back to listen to Phedippidations 159. In this one Steve burns his commercial bridges with the running shoe companies by laying bare their immoral business practices. And very well done it was as well. All of the major companies were named and shamed - some more than others, for their reliance on manufacturing units in third world countries which pay scant attention to workers' rights. Moving their units around shamelessly to seek the lowest cost bases the corporate giants turn a blind eye to the slave-like conditions under which their goods are produced.

But it was an even-handed delivery and Steve took time to point out the small steps that these businesses are taking to alleviate some of these issues - signing up to charters, audits etc and introducing workers' rights and more environmentally-friendly practices.

(Personally I think that the companies involved should not take any credit for any such good initiatives. If the shareholders/directors did not believe that these actions would increase profitability then they wouldn't happen, despite all the flak).

But I did like the way in which Steve, having apparently rested his case, then suddenly got off the fence and tore into the companies involved with a passion, and invited his listeners to remember the workers who had suffered to produce the shoes we were lacing up. Excellent stuff Steve.

I am doing my bit to stop lining the pockets of Asics shareholders. I have now completed 850 miles in my Cumulus. I'm not sure what the recommendation is for ditching shoes but it's way below that. And, in my view, too many runners who should know better parrot the line about getting injured once the shoes have 'broken down'. Runners ought to learn how to plant their feet properly, then they wouldn't need all the protection and cushioning that the shoe companies peddle at extortionate prices.

Just my opinion of course!

Putty In Your Hands

A great way to start 2009 - 12.31 miles @9.57m/m. Up along the Royal Canal to Ashtown, a small loop over to the south side of the Phoenix Park and back along the LUAS line into town.

My 2008 diary shows a total of 1,059 miles. This is an increase of 36% over 2007 during which year I had months of downtime with my legs just refusing to co-operate.

Helping me along during the second half of this morning's run was the T'Pau album Bridge of Spies (yes I know, how old is that). Carol Decker has the most achingly beautiful voice and China In Your Hands, one of the best commercial singles of recent times, belongs to her alone despite the clever instrumentalisation. It is difficult to imagine anyone else covering that song successfully.

But the rest of the album is quality too. And Ms Decker, when you belt out Sex Talk, Monkey House and Thank You For Goodbye (hiyeea!) then I am truly Putty In Your Hands.