Friday, May 29, 2009

Cork Marathon - Preview

Jaysus am I looking forward to my break in Cork. I've been working like a dog and the Murphy's, my friends and relations and Monday's marathon are calling me like sirens - I can't resist. So tomorrow after coaching at Irishtown it's over to Heuston and first class (one of my few luxuries) down to the Rebel city and dinner with my great friends Deirdre and Muiris at Club Brasserie on Lapps Quay.

On Sunday it's a meet up with 2/3 of the rest of Boards B relay team (and possibly a few more boardsies) at Dan Lowrey's. After the ignominy of the last two Cork Maras I am settling for the 5.9 mile leg between the Victoria Road and Model Farm Road changeovers. As Deirdre says, I'll complete the Cork Marathon sometime - it might take me five years but...

The weather looks as if it will be hot, maybe even more so than the last two years. Note to put sunblock on my shoulders, still tender from Adamstown. The only time my shoulders ever see the light of day is in a club running singlet. But I foresee severe problems with the heat and the full marathon people.

So watch this space for a full report next week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Junior delinquents

Here in Ireland a young athlete is a 'juvenile'. Although generally I think I have integrated well I still find the adjective 'juvenile' can really only be followed by the noun 'delinquent'. So I will call our young Crusaders juniors for now.

And very well they are doing too. Whilst I was over at Adamstown on Sunday there were a number in action up in Santry in Match 4, the last one, of the Dublin Juvenile League. We continue to do well in the throws - honestly I'd be disappointed if we weren't. Isabel O'Leary got another win in the shot and Niamh Ferry was second - I think it was Niamh's first entry in a throws competition. Alix Hughes followed up her discus and shot wins in Match 3 with another first in javelin. A third win came from Clodagh Ferry, competing in the long jump a year ahead of her age group as she was late for her own! Nice to be getting first places. We expect the full results together with the final league standings to come out shortly.

Now the serious stuff is about to start. Notably the Dublin Championships which lead on to the Nationals for those that do well. And we can expect far smaller fields in the throws as those who, until now, have just been 'having a go' will not be present. In addition to the championships there are team relays, again leading on to greater things for those successful ones. I suspect however that things will tail off quickly once the school holidays begin.

Attendances are good at training. We had a great morning last Saturday with the sun shining. And it was great to see our new coaches itching to get involved and help out. And the onus is on us existing coaches to see that they are given every opportunity to coach whilst being there to advise if necessary. This is a difficult balance, trying to encourage new coaches to get on with it and take a group without throwing them in at the deep end. But it is great to see that Crusaders is unlikely to end up like Jersey Spartan AC with an 'active' coaches list a page long but with, on a rainy February evening, the same small handful of coaches doing all the work.

And we have split our work now with me taking on the U14/U15 groups, Moira the U12/U13 and Moya the U10/U11. On Saturdays we get the 'babies' from age 6 upwards and we need to look after them as well. In addition we each have our own specialities. I am throws, Moira is hurdles and pole vault whilst Moya is taking a firm interest in high jump. But it's fair to say we turn our hand to most everything!

Now let's hope we get a run of fine weather with the omens good for the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Adamstown 8k

Adamstown is a newly created satellite of Dublin. Set on a greenfield site it has a railway station through which the Inter Cities blast through without a second glance, but the odd commuter train does stop. I and one other runner alighted from such a train this morning and made our way through the quiet town to registration.

Designed and half-built during the Tiger years Adamstown consists of scattered apartments and flatlets, one school, a few shops. There is no real downtown, no centre of activity. The Lord Lucan pub looks as if it might provide this function. Although nicely designed and well-built the town totally lacks soul. It is home to a large Afro-European population who at least came out and lent a little atmosphere to Bleaksville for the first Adamstown 8k.

At least the sun was shining and registration was slick. However I was banking on changing facilities, and there were none. Not good, and I managed to get my gear on al fresco behind the baggage van. A little warm-up down a mercifully undeveloped green lane and over to the start. My mood didn't lighten to see that if I didn't stand in the sub-40 zone I was considered a 'jogger'. So, like a few others, I hovered in a make-believe zone between the two signs. Off we went and I knew immediately I didn't have my race head on. My running in the last 10 days or so has been painful so I just settled in as best I could. Around traffic-free development-zoned land we went, past the railway station and out onto the road that links Adamstown to the main Dublin road. Flat and fast this course, no doubt about it. At the Dublin road the field turned around to head back to town and us laggards could see the race at the sharp end. One chap had broken away, possibly intent on picking up the €10,000 bonus for breaking the Irish record of 22-something. A couple of Raheny boys trailed about 40 metres behind. And after I made my turn I was able to take comfort from the fact that there are still slower runners than me in existence.

Back the same way, past the station and the undeveloped land, into town and across the line in 42.16. I should be able to break 40 on a course such as that but try telling my legs that. The course was bang on 8k per my Garmin. The goody bag consisted of a T-shirt (wrong size though I swapped it later) a banana and an energy drink. Me and the other girl were again the only runners to get the train back to Dublin.

Adamstown is as far away from the idea of traditional Ireland as you can get. You wouldn't go there unless you had to. You have just got to hope that it builds some sort of of community spirit and gets some soul. As for me I'm now looking forward to Cork in eight days time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Phedippidations Drinks Party

Ten miles this morning, out to Blackrock and back. A grim old Dublin day with glowering skies and a brisk southerly to boot. Crap splits but at least I'm happy that I'm getting the runs in which maybe is as much as I can hope for these days. Next Sunday I'm entered for the Adamstown 8k which offers €10,000 for breaking the Irish record of 22 something. I'll be very happy if I can get anywhere near the 41min I ran for the Bandon 5 in December, but frankly I'm looking at nearer 45. Anyway that's 22 miles on the week, pretty ordinary really.

But what are we to make of Steve Runner, the voice of the podcast Phedippidations? I am a long-time fan having downloaded most (though not quite all) of his episodes. First of all, if you are not a listener, I urge you to subscribe for free via iTunes. At least give it a go. Fdip is a great companion when doing your weekend long runs. Steve is a converted runner, having been a couch potato for a number of his post-college years. He has now run - I forget, 20+ full marathons, and still maintains a goal of a sub four-hour. Uniquely (or it was so at one time) much of his material is recorded during his long runs, or even races - and edited back at his studio. Most recently we followed him with fascination as he completed yet another Boston Marathon off inadequate training, having received a late wild card.

But Steve's show has evolved to much more than just following his training and running. The podcast would long since have died a death had this been the case. Instead it is now hugely popular and, though Steve tirelessly promotes other running podcasts, he is still the Daddy. We hear of many things, and I for one am astonished at how one guy can speak with authority on so many subjects. Where does he find the time to cover the ground that he does? If I have a heavy week at work (unusual) then my running suffers and little else gets done other than my tri-weekly coaching sessions. But here is a guy with a demanding job in IT and a family life. But he is able to successfully compartmentalise these and still find time for his running and his other various interests - wine, astronomy, the American Civil War, baseball etc.

Steve puts himself across the 'good guy' but he is not afraid to go off on one when he feels like it. In his two most recent episodes for example he totally trashes (1) anyone who is opposed to the MMR vaccine on the grounds that it is linked to autism and (2) the practice of homeopathy. This latter seemed to be grounded in one particular and horrific case where a child suffered and died through her parents rejecting conventional medicine. Now I don't know enough about these subjects to be authoritative, but you can bet your life Steve has done his research. Again, where does he conjure up the time? I regularly take positions and defend them on basic evidence, but I'm open to being proved wrong by those that have taken the time to examine the evidence. Steve will already have the evidence marshalled.

Steve is one of the few guys I'd like to spend a beery evening with. Who else might be there? Ian Hunter for sure, Dick Beardsley, Stephen King. Sad that they're all male and American residents. So for balance let's add Carol Decker, Mary Peters (one of the loveliest ladies I've ever met) and Goldie Hawn. And it'll be Guinness for the lads and whatever the girls are having.

Edit - good idea this! I'm creating a drinks party list on the left.

Dublin Athletics Board League - Match 3

Under glowering clouds League 3 for Dublin's young athletes took place this afternoon. And we just about got away with it as the black clouds constantly threatened but never quite delivered.

It was nice to have a meet at Irishtown for a change rather than have to trek out to Santry. And it had the effect of highlighting a few shortcomings in the stadium equipment and general setup. Crusaders provided a fair percentage of the officials and I was sent off to lead the discus events (helped by Jean Ferry) which today consisted of U13 and U14, both boys and girls. Consequently I didn't see too much of what went on elsewhere.

However Alix Hughes arrived at the throws cage with the news that she had won the U14G shot putt. Which is great - I'm not sure we've actually won an event up until now. Her discus was OK though she can do much better. Crusaders' athletes have an advantage over many others who do not have access to throws facilities/coaches. Laura Crowley took 3rd place in the U13 event and Ciara Barry 4th.

Out on the track our Aoibhe Walsh, only 7 this month, somehow managed to wangle her way into the U10G 500m and didn't finish that far behind the penultimate runner.

So not too many details at this time. I'll put them up when they are published.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Samuel Beckett Bridge

To continue on the bridge theme, here is the new Samuel Beckett Bridge coming into Dublin Bay having arrived from the constructors in the Netherlands. Designed in more prosperous times it is shaped like a harp, a symbol of Ireland's Celtic roots. Not to be confused with the drink that gives cat's piss a bad name.

This morning as I trudged wearily opposite the working docks, there it was moored up. The plan is to sail it under the nearby East Link (see post below) and from there a short way upriver where it will be put in place. However the strong breezes have meant that this manouevre has not been possible so far this week. But with the winds due to moderate maybe by tomorrow morning I'll be able to report progress.

Yay! Here it comes through the East Link. What a great pic.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Bridge Man Rocks!

After a couple of rainy, windy days it was a warm and still Sunday morning. So pleasant was it, and so easy was I feeling, that I added a couple of miles to my planned 10-miler. That took me beyond Blackrock village for the first time in a while. After an easy outrun I determined to wind it up a little on the return trip - use my arms, pick up my heels a little more. But after eight miles I flagged somewhat and contented myself with a quiet trot home on what was now a pretty warm day.

I've always enjoyed running in warm conditions and indeed Jersey provided plenty of opportunities. Nevertheless I find that I rarely run well. It may or may not be coincidence that my abject failures in the 2007 and 2008 Cork Marathons were under pretty warm conditions. Once again I wonder if my hydration policy is a factor. It may be all very well drinking during a run/race but is the damage done well before that point? Today my only hydration in the preceding 15 hours was a bottle of wine and a cup of coffee.

One of the advantages of being a plodder is that you can take in your surroundings rather better. I have no difficulty in stopping to take a breather either, and early in the run this morning I had the opportunity to observe, for the first time, the East Link bridge raised to allow a piddly little yacht to pass underneath thus holding up traffic and runners alike. An awesome sight close-up and all controlled by a man in a hut. Just as my son once set his heart on becoming a Stop-Go man who controls traffic, I want to be the man who's job it is to push the button to raise the East Link.

A little further on I ran closer to the river than I normally do, to observe the boats in the so-called marina. If that's what Dublin's marina amounts to well it's a sorry effort. Surely there must be more than that? It would fit into a corner of any of the marinas in St Helier or St Peter Port, though admittedly the floating palaces there rarely do anything as vulgar as go anywhere.

So 12 miles in a couple of hours today, 25 on the week and 385.4 for the year to date. And approximately 1,200 miles in my present Asics Gel Cumulus. Which are showing interesting wear patterns, principally on the heel area, to my chagrin. But they remain serviceable and I've yet to manifest any symptoms of injuries that the doomsayers predict. The experiment continues and my box-fresh runners remain, ermm, box-fresh.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dublin Athletics Board League - Match 2

As the light faded at Santry the boys' shot putt - with some 25 competitors, was still going strong with the girls yet to start. At the javelin runway each of the young girls who stepped up, most strangers to the discipline, each got individual tuition from the kindly coach/official. Somewhere out in the gloom there were a series of 800m races going on. Impatient Dads wondered if they'd ever get away for a pint before closing time.

I'm not sure why this fixture was switched to a Friday night - something to do with a clash with a GAA event. It didn't seem to affect the numbers competing, although many of our young Crusaders had found other important business on this occasion.

There is a savage fall-off in numbers however as children go up the age-groups. For the U15 discus, relegated to the field outside the main stadium, for example there were only a handful of throwers. Both Aoife Murray and Philip Murphy aquitted themselves pretty well in what was their first discus competition. But even at this slightly older and more experienced level the standard of throwing is poor in the extreme. Back in the main arena amongst the U13 girls' javelin throwers only one or two had a notion of what to do. The shot is always popular as it is easy to perform. Dublin provides little hope for a revival in Ireland's throwing fortunes - where are the coaches?

Out on the track Clodagh Ferry finished second in her 150m heat and also second in her long jump. (Just an observation - in the UK/Channel Islands children under 11 would not be allowed to sprint competitively for a greater distance than 60m due to the underdeveloped aerobic system at this age, but Ireland seem to have no such concerns). Rosin McGuill PB'd in her long jump. Orla Murray was 4th in her 150m heat and chucked the jav as well as most. Isabel O'Leary and Abby McNamara also ran well and Isabel, with her one valid throw came second in the shot. Trials were reduced to two each as night descended and Izzy's second was a lovely glide which may have clinched the win but it clipped the sector line. Philip was left for dead in the 800m but gamely battled on to finish.

There is a great appetite amongst the youngsters for athletics with the Dublin officials hard pressed to cope sometimes. The great pity continues to be the massive dropout rate around ages 14/15.

Oh, and I got my pint.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bray to Greystones

Probably 50 years ago, as a child, I had the tragic experience of dropping an ice cream onto the sand at Greystones beach. Refusing to believe my misfortune I demanded to be taken to the same spot the following day to see if the ice cream could be recovered. I daresay the whole incident damaged me and might explain one or two things that have happened in later life.

Today I wasn't planning to run, but Bank Holiday Monday stretched out ahead alarmingly. In days gone by, back in Blighty, one could rely on BBC's Bank Holiday Grandstand with moto-cross, rugby league, maybe a spot of show jumping. Today there was the dubious offering of snooker and IPL cricket until Aston Villa v Hull much later. So I pulled on my whiffy gear again and set off. Someone had mentioned the cliffpath between Bray and Greystones as worth checking out so, armed with iPod I hopped on the DART to Bray.

It's about a kilometre from Bray DART station to the beginning of the cliffpath, and the seafront is redolent of many a small English resort with its cheap-and-cheerful novelty shops, cafes, arcades and well-established hotels all under a grey and breezy sky. Soon enough you are onto the cliffpath which rises gently and makes its way around the coastline, up above the railway line. Gently or not my calves were reminding me that they had also done some unaccustomed extra work on my beach run yesterday.

I had intended maybe walking or walk/jogging these few miles but instinct took over and I eventually ran the whole distance. The path gets a bit rocky in places, but generally it's fine for ordinary running shoes. It's an easy run, certainly compared to the north coast cliffpaths of Jersey which provide some serious ascents to the intrepid runner. But all hail to those that created - or at least made useable to the public, the coastal ways and cliffpaths we find all around our islands.

Coming into Greystones was a disappointment. There is huge development going on at the north end and, whatever the end result is going to be, it presently resembles a nuclear disaster area with the walker/runner grudgingly afforded a wayleave through the destruction into the town. But, once you get there it's a cute enough little place with plenty of bars and restaurants. Outside the DART station I purchased a Lucozade Sport rather than an ice cream for the trip back to Dublin. Nice to get five miles in the log so early in the week.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pure Morning

There's something in the Dublin air today. The stars are in alignment. Maybe it's something to do with the euphoria drenching the city after the D4 Pretty Boys' dismantling of the Munster Machine at Croke Park yesterday evening - what an astonishing performance and totally deserved result that was as well.

Still feeling a little way off my best form running-wise I set off on a 10-miler this morning, and it turned out to be an unusual couple of hours. At the north end of Sandymount Strand I hesitated. Not once in all the months I've run up and down here have I taken to the beach instead of the pathways. So, with absolutely no time targets or anything and with the tide out I found myself trotting gently south towards Dun Laoghaire on the sand. Reasonably firm and easy along the first section the beach becomes more unpredictable once you run beyond the south part of the Strand. Here we find more sea vegetation, flotsam and jetsam, an astonishing cuttlefish graveyard, drainage outflows. One of these outflows involves a choice of (a) wading across or (b) clambering up the sea wall and down the other side. I chose the latter and, whereas a younger person would complete the traverse easily I must have resembled a spider trying to escape from a bath as I eventually completed the mission. A little further on I came across the derelict Blackrock Baths, one of several old municipal seafront bathing pools along Dublin Bay which are awaiting a decision as to their future.

Sadly the beach was no longer runnable beyond this point so I turned for home the way I had come. The whole thing was thoroughly enjoyable and a reminder that one ought to keep one's running fresh by seeking out different routes and trails. It certainly wasn't fast but 10.74 miles in a respectable time considering my Garmin made no concession to me having to pick my way through the various obstacles set in my way today.

For the last half mile or so I popped my iPod on shuffle and - what are the chances of the first song being your mobile ringtone - in my case the Placebo classic Pure Morning. And second was I Feel Free by Cream.

Of course these omens mean that Birmingham will beat Reading and gain promotion in the match just about to kick off...

Edit (later) Reading 1-2 Birmingham. I believe an extra pint at Mulligans later is in order.