Monday, March 30, 2009
En route I listened to Phedippidations 178. I was all ears as Steve decided to talk about running 'form' and, specifically how to increase stride length. As a track & field coach I was pleased that Steve decided to tackle the subject. Most road runners just sort of...run, without thinking of how they might make things easier on themselves, or how to improve.
I was pleased that Steve had something to say on the recovery leg - the work that the foot does behind the body after leaving the ground. Actively working on the recovery leg will undoubtedly increase stride length. And even though this may only be by a very small amount, these small amounts will add up in the course of a run. It is an aspect that too few track coaches emphasise, and hardly any endurance coaches.
Strides (US - striders) were however inadequately covered and explained. Strides should not be done over as great a distance as the length of a football field as you will not be able to maintain 'form'. Strides are more correctly described as 'slow sprinting' where each aspect of the stride is emphasised - high hips, high knees, good recovery leg, arm drive etc. Maybe 5-7 repeats over 50 metres would be good.
The episode was very good, but I just cannot let the heel-striking thing rest. Steve asserts that 80% of runners are heel-strikers - source?? Then 80% of runners are WRONG! And I don't like the outspoken proponents of POSE or Chi Running either. But at least they don't encourage runners to land unnaturally on their heels and store up knee injuries. But Steve is man enough to admit that this is a controversial area and he has, and will, give due coverage to this subject. But to me it's just a no-brainer.
And you just gotta smile at the news that Steve got his Boston Marathon invite after his quite naked begging in recent weeks! Now he will describe to us how he will get in marathon shape in five weeks. Good man.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Nonetheless the interior consists of a most acceptable facility for athletics. A banked, four-lane 200m track, a 10-lane 60m sprint/hurdles strip in the middle, twin long-jump pits at either side and high-jump beds to pull out into the middle once the sprinting is over. In addition there is a covered warm-up area where, rather disappointingly, the shot-putt facility is housed, down the end like an embarrassing relation.
The standard of competition was inevitably much higher than that our athletes experienced in Dublin and we didn't threaten the podium.
- First up early in the day was Matthew Behan in the U14 sprint hurdles. He was simply overpowered by bigger, stronger athletes and his 10.99 didn't qualify him for the final.
- Patrick Keegan competed well in the U16 long jump without threatening.
- Brian Gray finished eighth out of nine in the U16 shot with a best of 9.92, beaten by fitter, stronger lads. His time will come if he works at it.
- Alix Hughes arrived just in time to take part in the U14 shot. Although throwing nicely she was - like Matthew, the smallest in the field and did not make the cut. Alix will do better with more technical throws and has the early makings of a multi-eventer.
But back to the facility. I can't fathom how, when the Celtic Tiger was roaring, Croke Park was being re-developed and Landsdowne Road completely rebuilt, Athletics Ireland couldn't manage to produce at least one high performance athletics facility near to Dublin.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
- Sarah Fleming threw badly with a best of 8.88m for fourth place in the U16G shot
- Isabel O'Leary did well to finish 7th with a PB in the U12G shot
- Olibhia Collins did not progress in the same event
- James Woods got boxed in his 600m heat and finished 5th and did not qualify for tomorrow's final
- Patrick Keegan, who qualified as a reserve from Dublin, did not progress from his 100m heat
Friday, March 27, 2009
This weekend Crusaders have athletes competing at Nenagh (a couple of hours drive from Dublin) in the finals of the All-Ireland Indoor T&F Championships. To my chagrin I can't get down there on Saturday so best wishes to Sarah, Izzy and Livs (shot putt), James (600m) and Patrick (60m).
On Sunday it's a 7.30 start to see Matthew (sprint hurdles), James (hopefully in the 600m final) and shot putters Brian and Alix. Brian is going to use the 'shift' or 'shuffle' technique as opposed to the 'glide' as he is achieving much better distances in training with this. Alix is impressing me no end in training and - like Sarah, I think we will have a discus star on our hands this summer.
Monday, March 23, 2009
On race day you make your way across to Galway Cathedral, gathering other silent runners along the way. You get on one of the huge fleet of coaches trusting that it's for Leenane and it's not going to drop you at the marathon or the ultra start. Out of Galway and gradually the scenery changes from farmland and seascapes to rather bleaker, hilly land until you are in the heart of Joyce's Country and Connemara where the majestic, rocky hills support only a bit of sheep farming and tourism. At last you are offloaded at Leenane, at the head of Ireland's only fjord Killary Harbour.
Here you do your best to keep warm for a couple of hours before the midday race start. There's no shelter but at least it's dry this year, if chilly. And while the harbour businesses could make a killing on this morning all stay resolutely shut apart from a small foodstore which does huge trade.
Too soon you are invited to put your bags onto the lorries, meaning a half-hour hanging around in your race gear. I elect to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt under my Crusader's singlet, but there are plenty of hardy souls with bare shoulders. I go for a little warm-up and I'm feeling fit and frisky. So today I'm going to enjoy the day but hopefully with my race face on and hopefully a sub-two.
Chip mats at the start! Well done the organisers - it means no pressure to get near the front. We're off and, after a downhill jog it's into the first of the uphill miles. Slow, too slow. No chance of pushing on at this time with everybody so tightly packed. But did I mis-read my Garmin? In fact I'm up with my target time at Mile 2 but decide I need to step on the gas. My target pace from here to Mile 9 is 8.45m/m but whoa, 7.57 for Mile 3! I've a little work to do before achieving Bekele's sense of pace. Ease off - but not enough as 8.15 and 8.23 follow. But I'm feeling fine and figuring that the Hell Of The West later will be a crawl whether or not I'm bushed. I'm ahead of the game and can even afford time for a quick pitstop during Mile 7.
But for a few miles now there's been something wrong with my Garmin. The mile markers are coming up a couple of hundred metres after the Garmin has beeped. However I plough on, still running well and taking care to look around and admire the fantastic scenery. The sun is now out and it's a wonderful day.
Turn right at the pub and the last water station before the HOTW. As I suspected I'm flagging a bit as I start off on the 1.8 mile climb. However I've got no time worries and I slow down and head up the hill nice and steady The key is to concentrate on the next ten metres and not keep looking ahead to the endless stream of runners snaking upwards - easier said than done though. It's one of those hills while, though not steep, it fools you by pretending you're near the top - you never are. Past the simple memorial to the runner that died here in 2006 and finally over the top.
A couple of miles downhill and flat to finish. But it hurts to pick up the pace again after the hill. But it's only pain which is. of course, temporary. I'm happy I'm on track for my sub-two but hold on....I'm not that far ahead of the pace and the finish is way ahead of the 13.1 when my Garmin says I've finished. Nothing for it but to sprint (sort of) the extra distance, in between quite a crowd of spectators. At last under the gantry at Maam Cross and the Garmin stops at 13.31 miles and...1:59.21!
(It now appears that I was not alone in figuring the course is long!)
Then the inevitable queues for medal and T-shirt. Pick up kitbag. Head into Peacockes Hotel for grub and a drink - again all very well organised. Where do all these helpers come from? And finally onto the Galway-bound coach, the inevitable delay in negotiating the by-now gridlocked Maam Cross approach road before we're full speed for home.
So, very pleased with my effort in Connemara. Next up is the Wexford Half in four weeks time (though I'm also entered for the Armagh 10km on the same day). Hopefully I'll still be on form.
My mile splits
10.29 start/part uphill
9.07 part uphill
Friday, March 20, 2009
I was entered to run the following year but never made the starting post. One young lad did, only to lose his life right at the top of the Hell of the West. Whilst I was as upset as anyone else for his friends and family I hope they took comfort in the fact that he died doing what he loved in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.
I ran again in 2007. This time I got irritated by the big numbers allowed to enter the Half. It seemed to be an elbow-to-elbow affair for far too long, the marathoners and ultra-marathoners got fed up fighting their way through us and I lost any sense of magic. And although gunning for sub-two I never really got on terms and clocked 2:03 and bits.
On Sunday I have a three-point plan. (1) I have planned out my mile splits to take account of the slow start and the three miles of uphills, to bring me in under two hours (2) I am not going to get grumpy about the crowds or if I fail to get my target (3) To enjoy the trip, the rugby internationals tomorrow (Sat), the race atmosphere and the beer and Indian meal in Galway on Sunday night!
Race report early next week.
To their credit they also publish a list of qualifiers for the All-Ireland. I do hope that a few of those listed have a bit of cop-on and don't go.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Football has a long history of duals between the islands since the first match in 1905. In the early years the annual match was sponsored by the cigarette company Muratti. That name has stuck ever since even though that sponsorship was short lived. And neither team has dominated football with the trophy changing hands frequently.
In other sports there have been some remarkable runs of success. Jersey had something like 10 successive victories at cricket in the 80s and early 90s since when Guernsey have dominated proceedings. There was a time where it was difficult to see how Jersey could ever again win a badminton or squash match, but the wheel has somehow turned.
But cross-country! Rarely I suggest has a gulf existed that is so wide as to appear unbridgeable. Last weekend Guernsey placed 10 runners in the top 11 at Delancey Park in the annual men's match. This without their top runner Lee Merrien. The mismatch has existed for quite a number of years now and, despite something of a revival in junior running in Jersey it really is hard to see when this state of affairs will ever even out.
Remarkably however Jersey have consistently had the better women's teams with, last weekend, Guernsey struggling to close full female teams on their home island.
Anyone interested in seeing the full results can click on the title for the link. Anyone with any sensible theories let me know!
Monday, March 16, 2009
I was hoping for a good tempo run back into town but in truth I struggled a bit. That first climb up Vico Road and the early undulating run in and out of the little harbours should energise one, but I always end up feeling flat. However it was nice to see the Sunday crowds out all along Dublin Bay with Sandymount Strand particularly busy. 11.84 miles at 9.37m/m making 27.8 miles on the week.
So next Sunday it's the Connemara Half Marathon which I also ran in 2005 and 2007. I feel in good enough general shape to attack sub-two hours. But I'll need to run smart and be aware of what mile splits are needed on the 10 non-uphill miles. More on that later in the week. But for now it's a clean-living buildup but without too much running. I need to be fresh.
Friday, March 13, 2009
In the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games Guernsey's Dale Garland and Kimberley Goodall became minor TV celebrities as they flew their island's flag in the decathlon and heptathlon. A year later they were the pinups and the couple that had big crowds flocking to Footes Lane as Guernsey hosted the Island Games. We got sick of seeing the Guernsey flag hoisted and listening to their tuneless anthem, and it was with great joy we heard the local crowd go silent one particular evening as Jersey's Jo McGarry outpaced a Guernsey girl in the 10,000m.
All the while Dale and Kim's teammate Lee Merrien was in the background, running well on the track and over the country. However in the Isle of Man in the 2001 Island Games us Jersey crowd roared on Ian Carter as he outsprinted Lee to win the 1500m.
Fast forward eight years now. Lee has recently been rubbing shoulders with the very best Brits, and gained his senior GB vest in the recent Euro Cross held in Spain. Last weekend he finished third in the Inter Counties and World Trials to gain selection for GB for the forthcoming World Cross in Jordan.
Ian Carter blazed a trail through the Jersey age-group record books but was never able to kick on in the same manner as Lee. Those Jersey records are quickly being obliterated by runners who receive the benefit of the group training and coaching that Ian never had.
One thing Ian, Lee, Dale and Kim have in common is that they are the nicest people you could hope to meet and they are top ambassadors for their sport and for their island communities.
Lee's blog is over on the left and currently features pics from the World Trials at Nottingham last weekend.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This evening at Irishtown there was a great attendance by the juniors, with an obvious buzz hanging over from the weekend. At least one young lady was rumoured to have slept with her medal still around her neck!
And if I thought I had an easy option with a small handful of shot putters that was out the window as another gaggle was sent over to the circle. And a great time we all had as the young athletes got to grips with shot. Tonight I did something for the first time ever. Instead of going from standing throw into the fairly complicated 'glide' I decided to experiment with the 'shift' - a halfway house much beloved by PE teachers. It actually went quite well and it's something that I'll persist with.
And with Liverpool kicking off against Real Madrid, did I get any respite? Huh! Under duress I broke out the discuses (?discoi, discae) and managed to hoist a section of the throws cage netting into place. Within 15 minutes Sarah, Roisin, Alix and fellow coach Moya had performed (if not perfected) a standing throw, a South African drill and even a full turn.
And I still got the second half!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Just as well. Even Nanook of the North would have balked at competing in the cutting, icy winds which prevailed today (Sunday).
And the white-and-red of Crusaders AC was prominent all weekend. I've no idea when the famous singlet was last on view at these championships and the young athletes did the club proud. There were many good performances, happy smiling faces and a nice collection of medals that we didn't really expect.
But back to yesterday (Saturday) morning and an 'It could only happen in Ireland' moment. At our National Athletics Centre the scheduled start of proceedings was delayed by a double booking - by the Irish bobsleigh squad no less! But whereas elsewhere officials and coaches would have been giving out and throwing shapes, here there was just a shrug of the shoulders and things got under way as soon as they could.
Saturday was sprints and hurdles. And outside was middle-distance, from 500m to 800m dependant on age. And with the clash of events inside and out things went rather askew. The U10 girls were lined up for their 500m for example, then it was decided to run the U11 500m first. The new girls were then stood on the line in the cold for a full ten minutes before being hauled off again. Not good enough.
Then, what I believe was a serious error. The splitting of large middle-distance races into semi-finals, with the final run no more than an hour later. Wherever the AAI rule book is (no one seems to know) it surely has more sense than to allow this.
That said, the officials of the Dublin Athletics Board are to be congratulated. They conducted a busy two days very professionally. And I know from experience how difficult it is to run a track & field meeting. The main officials were at once knowledgable, firm in their application of the rules but sympathetic to the young athletes, many of whom were naturally very nervous.
But one final gripe. One of our young Crusaders was slung out on Saturday for not wearing a club singlet. Today (Sunday) she didn't turn up for her events. Is this the way to keep young people in athletics? (On the other hand I witnessed a similar incident where an athlete was given the opportunity to quickly borrow a teammates's singlet).
Sunday saw the long, jump, high jump and even shot putt all accommodated inside. With all the athletes, officials and spectators it was all fairly cramped but everything swung along pretty well. Participating clubs are expected to provide a certain number of officials - I put my hand up for shot. I therefore spent a number of hours measuring mainly mediocre throws, but in these championships there's happily no limit on who can compete. The implement weights are lighter for each age group than in the UK. I was interested to hear that this was a deliberate move in Ireland which has had the desired effect of getting more youngsters throwing. If so then that was an excellent move. Now all that is needed is to get these young athletes some basic coaching!
I'll post a link to the results in due course. But a few highlights included (to the best of my memory)
- Clodagh Ferry, golds in U10 60m and long jump as well as a relay medal
- Grainne McGuill high-jumping 1.20m
- Matthew Behan, medalling in U14 hurdles and looking the part
- Emily Shiels, bronze in U12 long jump
- The boys' U11 relay team getting silver - I didn't even know we had a team!
- A great effort by the girls' U13 relay team in getting 4th
- James Woods hanging on to 3rd place for grim death in his 500m
- All three of our shot-putters - Alix Hughes, Olibhia Collins and Isabel O'Leary, medalling. I've never seen such happiness on anyone's face as on Isabel's as she accepted her gold medal
- On a rare foray outside for me I saw our girls U11 relay team leaping about, high-fiving, posing for photographs. They'd got THIRD place. And this sums up for me what a great, happy crowd of kids I'm lucky to be involved with.
Friday, March 6, 2009
And, though I've seen advertising signs for it, it's the very first time I've seen the Liffey Ferry in action this morning - a little covered-in vessel chugging its way over from Macken Street. Right by where the Samuel Beckett Bridge is being constructed. That'll be (I think) the 16th bridge over the Liffey from Heuston Station in the west of the city to the East Link. The ferry business is not one to be considering putting your redundancy money into right now.
And it's a truly lovely scene as I pass over the Sean O'Casey bridge back to my apartment. The rising sun is blazing low in the east off the Irish Sea straight downriver. Several photographers are trying to do the moment justice, with some fancy filters necessary I think. (The Roma beggar setting out his stall for the day of course welcomes any activity that might result in a few coins coming his way).
And at the end of it I've done my second week of 6 days consecutive running - unusual for me. I'm tired and now officially 'on taper' for the Connemara Half Marathon on 22 March.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I've added a new blog link - Shore Turtle by Charles Mann in New Jersey. I've not had time to read it yet but it does contain the biggest list of running blogs you can imagine. Funny how this sport of running seems to generate so many blogs, all of which give a different perspective on things.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Lydiard lists the three essential elements of training for successful running as (1) aerobic work, (2) anaerobic work and (3) speed. The relationship between all three is all-important but not always well understood. He was one of the first to formulate the theories of periodisation.
First of all he asserts that aerobic capacity is theoretically infinite - i.e. the body's capacity to increase the efficiency of heart, lungs and the processing of oxygen around the system. The anaerobic capacity of the body is however limited. Therefore an athlete who trains predominantly anaerobically - e.g. with interval training, will inevitably soon reach the point where improvement will be difficult, if not impossible. Improvement will become possible if aerobic capacity is increased and therefore, as they are linked, anaerobic capacity will also improve and times will come down.
This is where Lydiard's theories were (and are) questioned. It just seems 'wrong' to send an athlete out to run easy for 160 miles per week when they should be suffering on the track. Lydiard insists the two must go hand in hand. He quotes the case of his athlete Murray Halberg who, with three laps of the 1960 Rome Olympics 5000m to go, put in a 60 sec lap to which his interval-trained rivals could not respond. This was (Lydiard claimed) because his man was used to running long and steady whilst his rivals' bodies were expecting a rest, as in interval training.
He also insists that speed must be a constant throughout the training period and should incorporate technical work and hill runs - the latter for leg strength (uphill) and leg speed and stride length (downhill). He was not an advocate of weight training.
Needless to say, this is not a recommendation of Lydiard-type training - I have not got the background to say that it is right or wrong. But it has enthused me to start looking a little deeper into the science of this running business.
After a long right sweep it's a left along Alfie Byrne Road and into the badlands of the East Wall and Sherriff Street which skirt the working docks. Here even the police dogs go around in pairs and the Garda helicopter a few hundred feet up is a familiar sight. However the lions are still asleep and a slow, limping antelope can pass through unscathed. Onto the familiar last mile upriver along the north quays and - what's this? I'm high-fived by a young, pony-tailed, foxy fellow runner going in the opposite direction. A cool way to finish this morning's run. My mile splits were
13.18 miles @9.35 m/m, total time 2.06. A reasonable rehearsal for Conn in three weeks time - though that race has three miles of serious uphill, against which I'll hopefully be running fresh after a taper. 32 miles on the week and I've been pleased with the quality of most of those miles.