Monday, October 26, 2009

Dog Bites Runner

Back in the not-so-sunny south east I eventually levered myself off the couch for my long run on this Irish Bank Holiday Monday. Back up the road the Dublin Marathon is taking place right now - last year I did my bit by stewarding and helping tidy up the start area afterwards. The weather will be OK with the high winds of the last two days having blown through.

Today I followed my familiar long run route - almost by default as I've yet to find a decent alternative. Maybe I'll soon explore one or two of those roads that seem to be dead ends, though there is something dispiriting about having to retrace ones steps.

I take back all I've said about the friendly nature of Irish dogs. Today as I turned onto Knockhouse Road a little brute took a bite out of my leg and drew blood. I yelled at a nearby bloke assuming the dog belonged to him, but he (the dog) scuttled off in the opposite direction leaving me to humbly apologise to the bloke I had shouted at.

After this the run was uneventful enough. Without feeling entirely comfortable I found I was dealing with the (minor) hills rather better and was holding a reasonable pace. Once again I played around with my running style - hips higher, land mid or forefoot, lift up don't push off, slightly quicker leg turnover. No other runners around - maybe they're all up the road racing. Will I train for another marathon next year? We'll see.

Certainly I am running better than for some time and I was pleased to see my average speed had significantly improved once again as I came back into town. Though I had to extrapolate for the 2.5 miles during which my Garmin was stopped. I'd stopped it after the dog incident and forgot to restart it.

Not good mileage last week. I need a target. Maybe the Waterford Half in mid-December is a good one to train for. And it would be nice to think I could have a pop at a PB at my advanced age.

Fleetwood Mac at the O2 Dublin

My first exposure to Fleetwood Mac was in the 6th Form Centre at St Philip's GS. A schoolmate was gamely plucking away at Albatross, the bluesy, dreamy instrumental that charted for the band in 1969.

Last night (Saturday) at the O2 in Dublin two of the original members of that band, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were still laying down the rhythm for the band forty years later. It's gobsmacking isn't it?

Not so for some of those in the audience, each of whom had paid upwards of €80 to see these legends, arguably the greatest band still on the road. Quite probably never to tour again. A steady stream of punters only intent on travelling to and from the bars for a steady supply of fizzy shite lager. Like it was being discontinued tomorrow. And resulting in further disruption as this resulted in the drinkers having to regularly leave their seats for a piss. Turning their backs on some of the most sublime music ever made. Truly it is very sad, the need to have an alchoholic drink before it is considered that one has a night out. Now, I'm no stranger to alchohol but last night made me ashamed.

But that spoilt my evening only slightly. The gig will remain memorable for howevermuch time I have left. The O2 Arena is a magnificent venue and the atmosphere was electric - the audience comprising younger ones who were only stars in the sky in 1969 as well as us greybeards.

They could have performed anything and we would have been pleased. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham said that, with no album to promote, they had decided just to have fun on this tour and play what the audience wanted. Early on they sung The Chain, long adopted by the BBC for their Formula 1 coverage and happily reinstated now that they have bought back the rights from ITV.

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise
Run in the shadows, damn your love damn your lies

The first of many from the mega-selling Rumours album. Was it just me or did Buckingham appear to falter and compose himself briefly as he spoke about the personal turmoil that the band members were going through at the time and which resulted in such a creative body of work? Go Insane was the first opportunity for Buckingham to really get into the gig and he took it.

Lindsey Buckingham is the focal point of the band. The solid rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie has been the cornerstone of the band for over forty years. But Buckingham is the elemental force and the band would be nowhere without him. His vocals are raw, his guitar work falls short of virtuoso, but by God does he give it his every ounce of energy. And tonight he carried the audience with him and it was fantastic.

Next up was Rhiannon, one from way back and the unutterably lovely Stevie Nicks started to come into her own. Along with Elkie Brooks and Carol Decker, Nicks has long given me the shivers with her voice. Quite incredibly she is now 61 and she still takes the breath away. She has never had a powerful voice (unlike Brooks and Decker) and her contralto now lacks the edge of old. But she is wonderful and no one was going to nitpick on a night such as this.

Nicks performed Sara beautifully, before Buckingham launched into Big Love. Mercifully there was no attempt to replicate the male/female grunting and gasping fadeaway of the original recording - it was all one-sided!

Never Going Back Again, Storms and Say You Love Me followed. Then Nicks picked up Gold Dust Woman from the Rumours album and gave it the full treatment, with a lovely, drawn out ending led by Mick with Nicks bathed in a golden glow from the lights. And immediately followed on by Oh Well - back to the Green/Kirwan days and a faithful rendition by Buckingham.

Now when I talked to God I knew he'd understand
He said 'stick by me and I'll be your guiding hand'
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me

Now, the Mac are not a band that necessarily have the audience on their feet. They produce well-crafted work and don't go in for rabble-rousing. But as they closed their set everyone was up singing, dancing and rocking along to Go Your Own Way.

You can go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
(+ brilliant Buckingham guitar break).

And then a surprise. For an encore, rather than belt out another favourite as the audience expected, Mick Fleetwood suddenly took the limelight. The drum solo is a lost art but during World Turning Mick involved us, the rabble, and had us on our feet again. Then a sign-off with another singalong Don't Stop

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop it'll soon be here
It'll be here better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
(+ brilliant Buckingham guitar break)

At which point the O2 audience, totally wrecked, headed for the exits. But amazingly there was a second encore as the set approached three hours in length and Silver Springs was played to a half-empty auditorium.

Truly the formers lovers and clearly still soulmates Buckingham and Nicks, and the rocks that are Fleetwood and McVie, comprise one of the best blues/rock bands of all time. Their Dublin gig will never be forgotten and the Mac put in a huge effort as if they suspected that they are on borrowed time. We, the audience, had much more than our money's worth. Just a nagging regret that Christine McVie wasn't around with her old mates.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Return to the Capital

Running has taken a bit of a back seat this week. However, what I have run I have run well. There's a nice enough 4-mile loop from the Club, coming back along the last stretch of my old friend the Outer Ring.

Last night I was trotting along very well when I caught up with the slowest of a group who were out in front. It transpired from the lady in question that they were from Waterford AC and were out for a 5-miler out and back to the Regional Sports Centre - this being where both Waterford and Ferrybank train. We had a nice chat, and I wondered why one or two of her clubmates could not maybe double back to the slower ones in the group occasionally - maybe show a bit of bonding. But as we neared Ardkeen I bade my farewell and showed my new pal a clean pair of heels. Not often I'm able to say that.

My forced monastic lifestyle is undoubtedly resulting in weight loss, though I never actually weigh myself. As long as I keep eating sufficiently and properly this might show up in my running performances, which have drifted between good and dreadful this year.

But it's the long weekend! After a morning stint at the Club I'm up the road to the O2 to see Fleetwood Mac tomorrow night, accompanied by my old and dear pal Deirdre from Cork City. I absolutely can't wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


That blew the cobwebs away. Waterford dawned rather chillier and damper than of late. I plodded up through the old town, Lady Lane and Patrick Street to Ballybricken Green, scene of last night's revelries. On along Gracedieu Road and left onto Knockhouse Road, climbing gradually all the time. John Rawling on Fighting Talk in unbeatable form as usual - it's no contest when this bloke is on and he actually seems to enjoy the winning whereas most of the panellists are just happy with the knockabout of the show.

Onto the Outer Ring which is now becoming familiar. The early climbs have sorted out a little leg stiffness left over from the fast tready sessions earlier in the week. If I was in specific training mode I'd probably slip in some faster miles but today I remain in lazy mode and I'm happy enough just to progress along well within my comfort zone. Waterford is a quiet place of a Sunday and even along the dual carriageway it's a peaceful run. As I'm comfortable I decide to put in an extra few miles. Turning right I run towards Knockboy Village. I remember years ago that the properties down this way were new, bleak and somewhat isolated from Waterford proper. They now form a rather select suburb well served by new roads. A left at the village school and a nice drop down to the Dunmore Road with the river forming a pretty backdrop. Finally turning towards town and past Ardkeen and the Hospital into familiar territory. By now there are race marshals everywhere - there's apparently a Race For Life on today though I've not noticed any build up to it.

Back home in 2:18 and 13.4 miles for 25.2 miles on the week. And 860.9 for the year so far. This leaves me still on target for 1,000 miles for 2009. There is a mega-thread on where people are logging their miles up to 1,000. Bazman completed his 1,000 on 29th March and is probably on his fourth 1,000 by now. A further 33 runners have also reached this mark and currently I am in 40th place.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Raving Fan

Late in life I'm being convinced of the desirability of winning Raving Fans if you're in the business of attracting paying customers. This is an ethos within Energie Fitness where we try to go the extra mile and exceed expectation.

Tonight I set off on a little bar crawl around Waterford, which ultimately consisted of just two pubs. Both had been recommended to me by one of my fitness club trainers.

First up was Katty Barry's, about three minutes stroll from my flat. What a gem - a real blokey pub with a darts board, open fire, discrete juke box, sport on the telly, a cheap (€3.95) pint and regular OK guys sat up at the bar. No frills, just a straightforward Irish boozer, very much in the country tradition.

Then a climb up to Alfie Hale's on Ballybricken Green. This may be where I want to spend the rest of my days. On entering, the bar is warm and welcoming. It is (as are many Irish bars) much bigger than would appear from the exterior. Subdued lighting, dark furniture and fittings, it nevertheless is obvious that the proprietor has tricked it out at some expense. Everything about it is quality, but at once giving a relaxing ambience.

I order my pint and a packet of Dry Roasted Nuts. The little barmaid says she'll check in the back for the Dry Roasted but I say Salted will be fine. Five minutes later a complimentary packet of Dry Roasted is plonked on my table. The walls of this first section of the bar are covered with classy black-and-white photos of film stars - Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, James Stewart, John Wayne, Micky Rooney and dozens of others. There is seating suitable for both large groups and lone drinkers in this well-designed bar. The gents is uber-hygienic and fresh-smelling and has framed posters publicising long-ago films. The far end of the bar is devoted to sporting photos and memorabilia, harking back to Alfie's professional soccer playing days.

As I leave the place is filling up - I'm not surprised.

Put me down as a Raving Fan.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Set your sights high

These 69-hour weeks are proving interesting. One consequence is that - to get any running at all in, I've been heading for the treadmill at 8pm when my fitness club closes. The last two evenings I've bashed out four miles in 30 minutes, with the tready on a 2% incline. Which to me is a rate of knots I can tell you.

Maybe this is the forced opportunity I need to get my legs turning over and get back to something like the form I am capable of on my good days. But my lifestyle change has had other effects. Gone are the lazy office days with coffee and sandwiches at lunchtime and pints and/or a bottle of wine in the evening - not always but reasonably often. Now it's a cereal breakfast, a natural juice and something healthy to eat in mid-afternoon, and simple carbs (pasta, spuds, veg etc) in the evening. Though there are a couple of nice takeaways nearby so I occasionally falter.

Weirdest of all are my dream patterns. I've always had odd dreams but...last night I reached the Olympic 400m final! I had easy draws into the final. There I was due to run against Asafa Powell (yes I know) and others. I harboured some optimism in that I would have home crowd support on my side (I guess the Olympics were in Ireland) though I still figured that a medal might be out of reach.

Fortunately, I suppose, I woke up before the race.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Never Too Old to Learn

Being your own boss is great. Arrive at Energie Fitness for Women, Dunmore Road at 7am on my first day (Friday). Leave at 8pm having seemingly accomplished little apart from meeting and greeting the members, curious about the new guy who has taken over from Sandra. Chaos on Saturday morning as my trainer Kersty calls in sick leaving me to cope. I can't get the music machine to go; I can't open the windows; the man arrives with my two new cardio machines; a prospective member arrives for her 9am appointment with Kersty and I wing the paperwork and club tour, pretending I've been doing this for ever. Close the club at 1pm and spend an hour hoovering and wiping down machines and places where dirt and dust has been quietly accumulating. And get the feeling that again I've done little but fire fight. But there's a new week and much better things ahead.

Today (Sunday) dawns and I need to run. Not feeling particularly up for it after last night. I met my old friends Dave & Eleanor at the Three Shippes and shipped many pints of Guinness. The place goes mad as St Ledger puts Ireland 2-1 up against Italy in the 87th minute, only for familiar gloom to descend as the visitors nick an equaliser after sloppy defending. It's gone midnight as I lurch home. I decide to replicate last Sunday's run anti-clockwise around the city. The first three miles are gradually uphill but as I hit the ring road my running settles down. Today I make a special effort with my 'form', making a conscious effort to run taller, to land on the front part of my feet and to lift straight up off the ground rather than toe-off. Strangely I find that I have no trouble landing on my right forefoot but the best I can do consistently with my left is flatfoot. As to the 'lean forward from the ankles' promoted by Chi, Pose and Alexandre teachers, I can't get that. I don't think my core is strong enough.

Whatever, I spin along the ring road nicely enough and, whether or not it's all in the mind, I do feel as if I'm running more easily and efficiently today. Back into town a good few minutes quicker than last Sunday as well. My problem now is going to be finding time for running in the week. In the short term at least I will be working 13-hour days. I will possibly be starting a little running club out of Energie Fitness so that will give me some miles, though maybe not of the quality that I would want. We'll see.

And a shout out for the new Fighting Talk series, every bit as good as ever. And in Phedippidations #208 Steve made a good, intelligent programme about the remarkable similarities between the people of all nations. He and other podcasters are promoting the Worldwide Festival of Races to celebrate the running brotherhood while simultaneously ripping the piss out of the Nike's appalling and self-promoting Human Race.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Checking out the roads

The best part of 11 miles on Sunday, following the outer ring road. Heading anti-clockwise I avoided the deathtrap for pedestrians that is Grattan Quay/Bilberry Road and instead climbed up to Ballybricken Green and out along Gracedieu Road, turning left along Knockhouse Road. As this road doesn't go anywhere much it was quiet and by far the nicest part of my run.

But soon enough you have to come out onto the Old Kilmeaden Road and then turn east along the outer ring. This is effectively the city bypass with frequent roundabouts at which you can either turn in towards town or turn right and head off to Tramore and points beyond. Although primarily a fast dual carriageway to hurry along the traffic it is good to see that ample provision has been made along its length for walkers, runners, cyclists etc. A good, wide surface with plenty of separation from the traffic.

Not my best run ever but I plodded on steadily until I hit the Dunmore Road which, hanging a left, took me back to town in just shy of two hours - my first Waterford LSR.

This morning we had rain for the first time in weeks, and plenty of it. I decided on a four-miler but stepping up the pace on miles two and four. This time I headed straight up the busy Cork Road, past Waterford Crystal and WIT. Actually not too bad for running though you need to be careful at the many road junctions. My Garmin showed my 'tempo' miles at 9.16 and 8.49 which, recalling how I struggled to hold back my cruising pace to 8.45 at Connemara in the spring, just shows how much I need to work on speed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Last Day at Crusaders

With Rosin McGuill, Clodagh Ferry, Laura Ferry, Niamh Ferry, Grainne McGuill, Alix Hughes and Lorna Groves

Waterford - Early Days

So here I am in the sunny south-east. During brief visits in years gone by I've always considered Waterford as a bit of a grim, grey place. With Waterford Crystal the only reason to visit, why would anyone bother now that production has ceased leaving only the Visitors' Centre?

How wrong I was. I'm loving it after only a few short days. I'm holed up in the old part of the city at the east end of the quays. I can almost reach out and touch the old city walls. I am two doors away from The Munster, an historical old bar with tons of character. Though my first few pints have been in a basic, friendly place on the quays (Jordan's) that shows the footy. The town is much more like the Ireland I know and love. You try in vain to buy a coffee before 8am and after 6pm the town centre is virtually deserted. But in between times it is a bustling little place with modernity (John Roberts Square) muscling in alongside the older town. There is a definite lack of the big-name retailers with a pleasant emphasis on the smaller shop which enables the town to retain its character. Plenty of nice-looking restaurants await exploring in due course.

Up a bit of a hill just above the town there is a gem of a village green, Ballybricken, which served as a market place in former times. On one side I spot Alfie Hale's Bar. Alfie Hale was a former soccer professional and often featured in those collections of footballer cards that you got way back then. I will no doubt be checking this place out in due course and also the sports shop of the same name downtown.

My first runs have been along the quay and over The Bridge. There is no mistaking The Bridge, unlike in Dublin where you might be referring to any one of 20-plus. With all traffic from east and north-east to south being funnelled through here it is a very busy affair as well. Once across to the Ferrybank side of the River Suir I turn right to face the heavy goods traffic either barrelling or crawling down towards The Bridge, depending on the time of day. Fortunately it is then possible to hang a right and get off down a comparatively quiet road towards the quaintly named district of Christendom. A 4-miler and a 5-miler so far with a longer one planned for tomorrow (Sunday).

And then next week the final in-house training and preparation prior to me stepping into my gym on Friday, my first day as owner.