Sunday, July 26, 2009

On the Tullamore Trail

Tullamore is about 80 miles westward of Dublin. I've been up and down there quite regularly over the last few weekends attending various Athletics Ireland championships. It's a great facility, probably the best in the country outside the national stadium at Santry, and the Mardyke in Cork. The main arena is surrounded on three sides by a high hedge which keeps the worst of the winds off the track. On the fourth side is a covered grandstand and further, uncovered seating. There is a massive car park and even a large warm-up area outside the main stadium - this is also the place to where the long-suffering hammer throwers are relegated.

Yesterday (Sat) Alix Hughes took part in the U14G pentathlon. The standard was a lot higher than I envisaged and Alix, though she battled to the end, was rather blown away by specialist sprinters and jumpers. But she had her big moment in the shot putt as most of the other girls were obviously hating it! Alix sensibly put in an opening round marker of 8.83 with a standing throw. Her second throw was a good glide which produced a PB of 9.61 which, despite a less dynamic final throw was enough to give her the win.

Today it was the national 'B' championships, a great idea devised for athletes that didn't qualify for the main championships. Patrick Keegan picked up medals in the U16 100m and long jump, though not against the strongest of opposition. Grainne McGuill (U13G) has yet to bring out her high jump talent - it will come. Ciara O'Sionain (also U13G) battled to pick off two runners in her 100m heat but it was not enough to progress. The girls kept honours even in the long jump with 3.24 apiece.

One of the nice bits about the Tullamore trip is the chat on the car journey back - no point in paying for a train ticket if there's a car leaving from outside the stadium. I've recently had the pleasure of conversing at length with a number of Crusaders' parents - being Irish they're never short of interesting chat. Today it was Padraig and again I ended up far the wiser by the time I jumped out of the car in town. We crawled through Tullamore town centre despite my instructions - Kerry were playing Antrim. But as Padraig said we got the big-match buzz even though we didn't get to watch it. And he pointed out, having the craic with some fans outside a pub, ex-Kerry football legend 'Bomber' Liston (who I've since learnt played for the county for 15 years during many of their successful campaigns).

Which is pretty well a wrap for junior track & field this summer, which is sad. Though we're trying to arrange a last outing after the summer holidays.

Friday, July 24, 2009

U2 Fever

I was standing by the side of a track confessing to someone that I thought a four-minute mile was too big an ask at my age – 60-second lapping and all that. Then I was cruelly awoken by my mobile phone alarm. Cheese in the evening never fails to produce slightly crazy dreams.

5am on a dull-ish Dublin morning; I'd decided that I was going to do my LSR madly early in the weekend. This evening (Fri) is the Crystal Palace Grand Prix on the telly, after which I’ll be gasping for a pint. Saturday and Sunday I’m on the Tullamore trail again without the opportunity for a run.

Despite the early hour it is semi-light. It’s somewhat surreal to head over the Sean O’Casey footbridge before 5.30 passing Eastern tourists already snapping each other against the background of the Liffey and the city of Dublin. Maybe they are part of the influx of visitors to the capital for U2’s three gigs at a sold-out Croke Park, starting this evening. There are always a few people gawking at the graffiti which adorns the outside of U2’s old recording studios at Windmill Lane (just over the back from my gaff) and their newer studios at Hanover Quay. Here also on the quay is the site of the proposed U2 Tower, a mega-project which, like many other projects, has been put firmly on the back-burner due to the prevailing economic conditions.

My legs are working well this morning but, as usual, I am making no attempt to break out of second gear. The difference between my LSRs and SSRs is purely the letter ‘L’! All the better to be able to scan Dublin Bay for anything that might be going on out there – working boats at anchor etc. The beach is squidgier than usual this morning before I escape back onto concrete and tarmac and turn at the end of a deserted Blackrock Park.

As I approach the city on my return run things are coming alive as usual. I head up the north quays at a bit more of a lick to complete 10.7 miles in 1.56. That’s 27.9 miles on the week, always assuming I don’t get the urge to lace up again before Monday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taking the knocks

Just back from a 12-miler - my old DART-to-Killiney-run-back routine. A fairly tortuous affair it turned out as well, which was rather disappointing after an improved midweek. Today the weather was fair but hardly warm. It was interesting to see the south Dubliners making the most of a non-rainy Sunday by invading every little harbour and bay along the coast. Watersports are not particularly popular here, compared with the Channel Islands for example. But people of all ages were doing their thing. A little hatch called Teddy's in Dun Laoghaire was flogging ice-cream like there was no tomorrow and the kiddies were in seventh heaven as they 'took the air' along the Marine Walk as many generations have done before them.

I struggled on to complete a ropey run and 29.2 miles on the week. I didn't after all, run on Friday evening. After work I got trapped listening to Radio 5Live Extra and the surreal sound of the Aussies getting their arses kicked at cricket by England. Once bad light stopped play all my good intentions of a track 'session' had disappeared.

Yesterday (Sat) was a disappointing one at Tullamore. It was All-Ireland relays day. The U13 girls were well beaten in their semi-final early in the day - that was OK, you live with that in sport and try to do better next time. The U12 girls however, on form, should have easily qualified for the final. Instead a bad handoff left us outside the qualifying positions. And, depressingly, it was probably over-coaching that was to blame in this instance. Sad for the youngsters and the very supportive Crusaders' party who had set up camp on the final bend (well, not on the track but on the grassy slope overlooking that spot). But all that can be done is deal with the disappointment and come back wiser and stronger.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Life's a beach

A pleasing running week thus far. I seem to have rediscovered something and I’m feeling stronger and more motivated. This I hate to say out loud as I have come crashing down to earth too often in the past.

I plodded my regular 4-miler on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday set the alarm 15 minutes earlier and ran off down to the far end of Sandymount Strand on an idyllic summer’s morning. Having run along the walkway above the beach on countless occasions I seem now unable to keep off the sand. The going is mostly quite firm but with enough unevenness and soft sections to work the legs that bit harder whilst giving them a break from concrete and tarmac. There are always a few other early-risers around – often running, but also power walking, dog walking or just walking. Back through Sean Moore Park, Pigeon House Road and the East Link. At that stage I have a mile to run so I generally pick it up coming off the bridge – work the arms a bit harder and increase leg turnover. That is the simple ‘tempo’ bit of my routine. And it’s 6.6 miles by the Garmin.

And yesterday (Thursday) I thought I’d do exactly the same and again it was a good run.

Although it doesn’t bother me really I have a slightly dicky right knee. I didn’t do it any good on Tuesday evening, practising my shot putt glides at the track. Of course the stresses and strains on a right-handed glider are all up through the right leg!

No run this morning (Fri) but what I’ll do this evening after work is run at the track for 40 minutes or so – maybe a set of 600s or 800s, before showering and heading into The Yacht at Ringsend. Tullamore beckons again on Saturday and Sunday but I’ll get a later train on Sunday after my LSR.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An All-Ireland medal

In last Sunday's blog I was hoping but not believing that one of our young Crusaders would sneak an All-Ireland medal at Tullamore this weekend. And it came completely out of left field from Orla Murray in the U13 long jump. Orla only qualified from the Dublins in third place, which generally means you will be down with the dead men at national level. But with a previous best PB of 4.15m, set in the Dublins, Orla sailed out to 4.31m with her second round jump. This, with two no-jumps, left her in third position as the field was cut to eight for a further three attempts. Rounds 4 and 5 saw further no-jumps from Orla as the chasing jumpers got closer. Then, disaster in the final round as the fourth placed girl also recorded 4.31m. With countback in the offing Orla needed to hit the board with her last attempt or she was toast. It was close to the plastecine again and it seemed to take an age before the official deemed the jump legal to measure - an excellent 4.24m which, with the other girl's second best of 4.17m, was enough to give Orla her medal - fantastic!

Niamh McCarthy, who I coached for a while last summer, grabbed bronze in th U18G discus ahead of a hobbling Sarah Fleming (5th). Elsewhere Isabel O'Leary was an excellent 5th in the U12 shot with Niamh Ferry failing to make the cut by just 1cm. Alix Hughes, below par on Saturday, was 7th in the U14 discus, but only 3m off the winning throw which she might have threatened had her two attempted full turns not ended up in the cage.

One noticeable feature of this big meeting was the virtual absence of Dublin club vests. Where were DSD for example who must have had many more athletes qualified than who turned up?

And the 'ouch' moment of the weekend came on Saturday when a young lady broke an ankle/leg in the sprint hurdles and lay on the track for 15 minutes or so awaiting an ambulance. There was another stretcher case in the hurdles today but this time the runner considerately fell onto the infield so the meeting was not delayed.

Next Saturday is relays day, switched late in the day from Sunday in the dubious wisdom of AAI who have thereby consigned many plans and arrangements to the bin. Crusaders' U12G and U13G teams have qualified, the latter having had to be re-shaped because of the date change.

Edit - there is a link to the full provisional results if you click the title of this entry. Fair play to the much-maligned AAI for publishing these so quickly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ticking over

So, instead of sticking my head in the oven I managed to hold it together this week to record 22.7 miles - just about the minimum I reckon is necessary to 'tick over' whilst there's nothing particularly important coming up by way of races. That sort of mileage my blogging colleague Thomas the 'Rubbish Marathon Runner' ha ha! (see bloglist) will almost knock off any morning before breakfast. But I console myself by knowing that (1) I'm getting old and (2) I am not, never was, and never will be a proper runner.

Three lots of early-morning four milers this week. At least I felt good enough to run them without cutting them short. Then, faced with the certainty that I do not have a running window this weekend, I delayed my Friday pint by a couple of hours and headed off eastwards. I've not really done any evening running since I left Jersey. A certain nostalgia there which I'll return to in a later post. Certainly things are a bit different along my usual route on a Friday evening. The Cill Airne, instead of lying idly against the Liffey quayside is buzzing with IFSC workers drinking and eating al fresco on its decks. Along Dublin Bay the southbound traffic is heavy as people head 'down the country' for the weekend. In particular we have the pop festival Oxegen over the next three days down in Kildare and the forecast is for typical festival weather necessitating ponchos, wellies and a willingness to share tents with complete strangers. Strangely the Sandymount/Blackrock area this evening has a lot of Indian-looking folk milling around - they are never usually evident.

After a dodgy start I settle into a reasonable groove and I'm able to plod away to the far end of Blackrock Park before turning back. More for comfort than out of necessity I pick up a fruit drink at the garage on the way back. And, with the Garmin not co-operating tonight, I guess that's 10.7-ish miles in 1:56.26 - which believe me I'm perfectly happy with, though it won't keep my rivals in the Blarney Half Marathon awake tonight!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


A strange time at Irishtown. The summer holidays have arrived meaning attendances have tailed off predictably. On the other hand next weekend is the first of three consecutive weekends of national competition at Tullamore. These comprise individual, relay, multi-event and even a 'B' championships where all young athletes that did not qualify for the main championships can enter

This latter event will hardly be a feast of excellence but I think it's a great idea to give keen youngsters the chance to travel and compete against others from around the country. And who is to say that, amongst those competing, there may not be a few elite athletes of the future? How youngsters will develop is impossible to predict. Indeed it is rare that champions at age 13 are champions ten years subsequently. Physical development together with attitude and desire will play a huge part. I get annoyed when I read about 'stars of the future' when the sport of athletics has such a drop-out rate in the teen years. So I say let's celebrate the successes and achievements of these youngsters now, not project them into some unknown future. Their time is now.

Moira had a pole vault school going yesterday. Very basic stuff but the young ones love trying this event, and they are fortunate to have the opportunity. Once the track & field competition season is out of the way it is a chance to have a bit of fun, try some new things, before the onset of autumn and the cross-country season. Meanwhile there are new youngsters coming along all the time and yesterday Fergus (14) had me wishing he'd turned up two months ago.

Right, off to buy my rail season ticket for Tullamore. We have Crusaders in action on most days of the next three weekends and I'll be there to support them. It's hard to see any medals forthcoming, so my target is just the one - from somewhere. What an achievement that would be.


A gruesome week. After last week's upturn and excellent LSR on Sunday I have managed less than ten miserable, painful miles this week. If there was an easy answer to these peaks and troughs I'd have found it by now. As it is only the recall of past good runs might have me lacing up my shoes again on Tuesday.

Friday, July 3, 2009

One Of Those Nights

Leafy D4 was rocking tonight as The Eagles landed at the RDS. I guess like many I was expecting them to trot out their classic hits and get out of town. How wrong I was. These guys are top musicians and can rock hard and long as well as being able to lay it down low and easy. In a 3-hour set they gave us old and new alike and it was clear that they were enjoying every minute of this latter section of their careers.

And though they sprinkled their set with many of their hits it was their newer work that surprised and impressed. Their Long Road Out Of Eden album has been slow to gather interest this side of the Pond but as a result of this tour it will surely become a must-buy. There were some awesome numbers in there.

But it was only a little way in when they delivered a rip-roaring Hotel California after which I would happily have gone home having had my money's worth. But I would have missed much more of Joe Walsh's virtuosity - his hat would be in the ring as one of the top rock guitarists of his generation. The Long Road title track later on was superb as were many of the raunchier numbers. We always knew that these boys could harmonize but I had no idea how accomplished they and their secondary and tertiary band members were. Walsh, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Timothy Schmit are each in turn comfortable at leading the vocals as well as kicking ass out of guitars that they frequently changed.

Take It To The Limit was sublimely done before the RDS stewards gave up trying to keep people in their seats as the night rocked to a close. The encore was Take It Easy - their first hit, followed finally by Desperado, just as one or two of the audience were panicking. Even now the four lads took several minutes to leave the stage, walking towards each section in turn and waving. A terrific show with unbelievable energy and presence - one that you wouldn't want to miss.

And fortunately not too many cowboy hats amongst the middle-aged audience.