Friday, February 27, 2009

Mott The Hoople Reunion

Something that no one thought would actually happen, a Mott The Hoople reunion! The original lineup of Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Overend Watts, Verden Allen and Dale Griffin. I've grabbed a pair of tickets for the first night at the Hammersmith Odeon on 1 October.

Ian Hunter has continued to write and perform sublimely ever since and keeps in touch with his fanbase every couple of weeks or so, answering correspondence via his website. Mostly thanks to him there has been a growing retrospective interest in Mott, a lot of it from people that were born after the time that glam and punk were all the rage.

Hunter himself will be 70 on reunion night and it is staggering how some of these rock 'n roll stars defy the years, just as many others go under at a very young age. Grab any recent footage of him on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.

So now I've got to grow my hair and acquire some shades so I'll have a bit of 'cred' on concert night!

Oh yeah!

One of my aims for this week was to speed up my legs and aim for a couple of PBs on my morning runs. Well on Wednesday I clocked a 34.52 which was nearly a minute off my previous best. And just now (Friday) I've done a 34.22. All on a route for which I reckon 37-38 is par for me. Just goes to show what is possible if you push the envelope a bit and are feeling good.

No speed sessions at the track though. In honesty it would mean sacrificing a morning run. Plus, approaching 8pm after coaching, there have been the twin sirens of European football and The Oarsman. If I ran a few more miles and drank a few less pints I'd be brilliant.

On Sunday I head for Howth and a bit of hill training.

On the coaching front I've spent a little time with Sarah (16) and Brian (14) at the shot circle this week. Last night I was delighted with Sarah who managed to correct a fundamental flaw in her foot positioning in the glide and was throwing beautifully. Both of these athletes will be going for gold in the Dublin indoors shortly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Banks and Cop-On

The highest-profile casualties of the gathering recession in Ireland have been the banks. Huge misjudgements in their lending policies has led to the Government being forced to underwrite their liabilities. In the wake of this has come tales of financial wrongdoing and corruption uncovering the whole flimsy fa├žade. Political and business skulduggery has become endemic in the modern Ireland.

So then the banks are out to win back friends and customers in these hard times, right? This morning I toddled along to a major bank whose HQ is not a million miles from College Green. I guessed that opening time was 9.30 but played safe and arrived shortly before 10, to join a few others outside the main gates. At 10.04 an old guy in a black coat and top hat very slowly unlocked the car park gates. He might have been doing this since Ireland became a Republic in 1949.

So this meant the bank was open for business? Not on your Nellie. The wooden doors remained firmly closed, with no note of opening/closing times. Yer man in the hat didn’t give a toss about us of course. But at least there is a Starbucks next door and – whatever your opinion of that mega-chain, at least they are there for their customers.

There is a great Irish phrase, used both as a verb and a noun – ‘cop-on’. Maybe one day the business houses comprising this supposed European financial hub will acquire some of it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Winter Warm-Up

Good good good. Despite not feeling 100% over the last 24 hours I managed to attack my long run for a change. I went out with a little more purpose than usual and sustained the pace up until halfway, started back slowly to regather before finishing well. Mile splits of

9.03
9.10
9.28
8.45
8.56
10.56
10.01
10.04
9.33
9.17

9.97 miles @9.31m/m. 22 miles on the week which is less than I would like really. I'll be trying to do nearer 30 for the next two weeks before easing back for the last two weeks before Connemara. But some of those miles need to be at a quicker pace and I'll be looking for a 'PB' or two on my early morning runs, with maybe a track session or two down at Irishtown - speed these old legs up a bit.

Now, off to Santry where some of our Crusader juniors are taking part in their first-ever track meet, a low-key Winter Warm-Up...

...which took place (surprise surprise) indoors! Santry has an indoor training facility under the main stand and this was where all the afternoon's sprints and hurdles took place. And very well organised it was too. Each athlete had two runs, with the second round being seeded, based on times from the first round.

And our young athletes showed up very well considering that it was all very new to them. The routine of checking in, the discipline of starting, and the opportunity of running against athletes from other clubs will serve them well for two weeks time. Official results (faster of two runs).

60 metres
U10G Clodagh Ferry 10.4 (4th)
U11G Sarah Maher 10.4 (5th)
U11G Roisin McGuill 11.0 (9th)
U11G Ella Thirroueiz 11.3 (10th)
U11G Juliette Guest 12.4 (15th)
U11G Amanda Hickey-Hedman 13.2 (16th)
U12G Isabel O'Leary 9.5 (2nd)
U12G Emily Shiels 9.8 (3rd)
U12G Niamh Ferry 10.2 (6th)
U12G Olibhia Collins 10.6 (10th)
U12G Juliet Storan 10.8 (11th)
U13G Ciara Barry 9.6 (6th)
U13G Rachel Maher 9.9 (9th)
U13G Grainne McGuill 10.1 (11th)
U13G Abby Guest 10.6 (14th)
U14G Alix Hughes 9.3 (3rd)
U12B James Woods 9.9 (5th)
U14B Kevin Woods 9.1 (3rd)
U15B Fiachra Thirroueiz 9.5 (6th)

60 metres hurdles
U13G Ciara Barry 12.4 (5th)
U14G Alix Hughes 12.1 (2nd)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Killer session

Though my running has not exactly hit the buffers the last few days have not been good. Due to lack of time my long run on Sunday was already out of the window. However, with a hammer 'clinic' to attend at the National Athletics Stadium at Santry I thought I'd jog the few miles up there. Dreadful - it felt like I'd consumed an Indian meal, quantities of alchohol and not slept the night before. Oh hold on... Then another bad night on Monday saw me postpone yesterday morning's run, so it's only just now that I've lurched into action again with an early-morning four mile around Docklands. A good job I'm not on lottery funding really.

Down at Irishtown it's all enthusiasm ahead of the Dublin outdoor indoors. I arrived for coaching yesterday evening and - it being the mid-term break, there was already a big crowd down there. And it appears that one or two more parents are keen to be helping with the coaching, which is great. I was therefore free to give two older lads Patrick and Eoin a killer 20-minute fitness session on the infield. Why not try it? It goes

Med ball accelerations 200 metres + jog 60m + sprint 60m + 20 press ups + 20 sit ups. One minute recovery. Repeat x 2.

Finally a shout out for Charlotte Dutch's blog for which you will find the link over on the left. Charlie was one of my inspirations when I started running a few years back and she's now returned to running to train for the forthcoming London Marathon. Pay her a visit.

Friday, February 13, 2009

WJ Kavanagh's

The River Liffey neatly divides Dublin into two. To some inhabitants of the affluent suburbs of D2 to the south, a venture to the northside is to take ones life in ones hands. Rather like the inhabitants of middle-England imagine that, if they venture north of Hadrian’s Wall, they are sure to get their heids kicked in.

I found myself outside Kavanagh’s about a year after my previous visit. It lies on the uber-busy Dorset Street which is made even livelier by the regular sirens of vehicles rushing to and from the nearby Mater Hospital. A well-remembered characteristic of this establishment is the very creaky swing door which has the effect of swivelling all heads doorwards to see who dares enter. Happily the door had not been oiled in the intervening months.

Pulling up a barstool I order a pint. Not so busy on a midweek evening, but a fair crowd of locals. No women though, not really surprised. For those that wish a bit of quiet or a read of the paper there are plenty of hidy corners though. A plus point is the price of a pint (€4.10, as cheap as you’ll get in the city). Another is the availability of Scampi Fries, though at €1.50 these are becoming a luxury in these hard times.

Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor on the big screen takes the first three legs of his match against some Asian guy in about five minutes – that is even though everybody, including The Power, blinks with amazement when, on 41, he misses his single 9. That game is rapidly becoming of no interest, so we are then entertained when the smoke alarm starts wailing. No one, least of all the staff, appear to care and it eventually seems to give up of its own accord a while later.

I am approached by a Friendly Drunk Old Bloke on the way back from the jacks.

FDOB – ‘Howarya young man?’
Me – ‘Fine thank you, nice to meet you.’
FDOB – ‘Whereyafrom?’
Me – ‘Dublin.’
FDOB – ‘Gedouddathat!’
Me – ‘Birmingham.’
FDOB – ‘Ah, my family’s all in Manchester. I lived in London. My wife’s got glaucoma. Forty years we’ve been married. I love her. Whereyafrom?’
Me – ‘Er…..’

In truth these are hard times for a lot of Dubliners. Yesterday (Thursday) came news of 1,300 job losses at the airport – positions which were once thought to be life sinecures. There will be many in this part of town who will probably never find work again.

This morning (Friday) my early morning 4-miler was only a little damaged in quality by my foray onto the wild side. That’s 4 x 4 = 16 this week. With an unusually packed-looking weekend coming up it’s looking like I’m going to miss my long run. Five weeks to go until Connemara – must get the DART up to Howth for a practice run up the hill some time soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Consequences

The Six Nations rugby championships is back and they're dancing in the streets of Dublin as the local team see off Les Bleus with a fine performance.

My allegiance remains with England however. They also opened with a win but by a scoreline that was no reflection of the general play. The Azzurri of Italia self-destructed by selecting career-flanker Mauro Bergamasco in the crucial and specialist role of scrum half, with inevitable consequences. The only reason coach Mallett didn't haul him off before half time was, he said, out of respect for his man.

Ben Dirs has put up the perfect metaphor for this extraordinary selection on the BBC website (click on title for the full text). He relates how, in 1962, two American scientists injected an elephant with a huge amount of LSD to 'see what would happen'. The results were just as predictable as at Twickers 47 years later.

But at least England won, which is more than can be said for their cricket team. Bowled out for 51 in Jamaica by the basket cases of world cricket (if one ignores Zimbabwe). The trouble is that the eleven that played are pretty much the best that we've got, which is scary.

Ass Skating

Being on the western edge of Europe hasn't saved Ireland from the recent wintry conditions. Whilst here in the low-lying capital it hasn't been too bad, the Dublin approaches and indeed the rest of the country has been quite badly affected. Away to the south the Dublin mountains have been picturesquely white for the last week or so.

I've missed a couple of morning runs this week, reckoning that a few miles less will damage my running less than a broken ankle, bashed knee or split head would. The icy conditions just aren't worth it. However this morning (Sunday) there was a new, inviting fall of snow on the ground. I needed to get out there and therefore I hunted out my trail shoes and set off. And an interesting run it turned out to be in the unusual conditions. My iPod refused to work this morning but it was a good opportunity to let the mind drift - first of all to my becalmed Epick Novel. I came up with some good ideas, one or two of which were (oh dear) a bit racy. So onto Chapter Two later.

And underfoot I was having no problems. That is, until I checked my Garmin as it came up to 5 miles in Blackrock Park and I decelerated. Whoa, feet in the air, flat on my arse. There followed a few Bambi moments as, on all fours, I tried to scramble back to my feet before I headed again for home, nose in the air, pretending nothing had happned.

All of which put me in mind of ice skating. Do you remember when they used to show the British championships on Grandstand? Many years ago it was and my memory does play tricks. But it seemed to be a succession of girls tearily sliding across the ice on their backsides. Anyone who remained upright for three minutes was in contention for a medal. Then along came the outrageous John Curry and the slightly less camp Robin Cousins - Olympic champions both, who put British skating firmly on the map.

But it was of course Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean who popularised the sport in Britain. Who can forget, in the early hours of a day in 1984, their 'perfect 6s' performance of Ravel's Bolero in Sarajevo in another Olympic-winning performance? That however proved to be the high-water mark of British skating. The sport declined as quickly as poor Sarajevo did. When next we took notice of that city it was largely rubble as the epicentre of the Balkans conflict. It is by all accounts recovering nicely - more than can be said for British ice-skating.

10.05 miles @ 10.01m/m - that's better. Though I'm well aware that a sub-2 hour Half requires nearer 9-min miling. Perhaps I'd better get onto the track for a few sessions.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First Signs of Spring

The first Irish track & field fixtures are coming over the horizon. The competitive year starts off with indoor competition. Which is a bit of a standing joke here as the only indoor facility in the Republic is at Nenagh in North Tipperary. And I understand that so draughty and unwelcoming is that place that people go outside to get warm!

Indeed the Irish national championships take place next weekend outside the jurisdiction, in Belfast.

Of more immediate interest to us at Crusaders are the Dublin Indoors in a few weeks time. Of course this event takes place outdoors - it could only happen in Ireland. The most successful go on to Nenagh for the AAI Indoors three weeks later.

So we are starting to think about which of our athletes might contest which events. We already have a good idea of who can run and jump. This week we started thinking about shot putt, the only 'indoor' throw. Everybody on Tuesday evening had a little go with Alix Hughes being the stand-out performer. We have two older throwers - Sarah Fleming (16) and Brian Gray (14) who, with the dire overall standard of throwing in this country, should be competitive at national age-group level this summer.

I am fully expecting some other young throwers to come creeping back shortly ahead of the schools competitions. Despite my nagging, none have appeared for the winter training. They will therefore not achieve all that they are capable of in 2009. However I must accept that not all young athletes wish to devote themselves entirely to their sport. And training as a thrower can be a cold, lonely business.

On Thursday the elements forced us inside but Moira delivered a useful hurdle flexibility session. And with Moya and Marian now on the coaching strength we are now able to split the Saturday crowd by age, and perhaps we can sub-split by event later.

Biting Easterlies and Left-Field Solutions

As long runs go, today's was pretty crap. Once again my energy levels were low. Perhaps I ought to re-examine my diet. For sure there's not much by way of fruit and veg in there at the moment. Neither am I snacking on fruit, nuts and water during the working day as I'd got into the habit of doing.

I took my old route up the Royal Canal through Dublin's northside and - instead of turning left into the Phoenix Park at Ashtown, I added a couple of miles on by carrying on up River Road and coming into the park through the Castlenock gate. Then anti-clockwise around the perimeter to leave by Parkgate and along the Luas tracks back home. Added to my lethargy was a biting easterly wind which added nothing to the experience.

Phedippidations 170 was one in which Steve indulges a bit (no, a lot) in trying to understand the universe and our place in it. (Frankly I don't care, but I don't mind listening to his good-natured assertions). He also suggested an immediate solution to the Gaza conflict and the inane genocide there by inviting the Israelis to just take over Massachussets as their nation state, and leave Palestine as it is. As sensible a solution, and just as likely to work, as any that the United Nations are likely to come up with.

And after catching up with the two most recent episodes of Fighting Talk I'd at least completed 14.6 miles for 30.6 on the week. The first of these episodes included unexpectedly the first few bars of All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople, which acted as Sue Mott's theme tune. Ian Hunter, Mott's singer, is an all-time hero of mine - now pursuing a solo career and continuing to produce great music.