Carlingford Half Marathon

This weekend saw me racing my second half marathon for 2015 up in the beautiful Cooley Peninsula and Carlingford town. For the first time in nearly 5 years, I am once again a sub-2h00 half marathoner!!! I highly recommend this race for 2016 to anyone looking for a lovely setting, great organisation, lively vibe, and just some all-round fun. It's not too far a drive from Dublin, perfect for a day out.

My day started early, having elected to drive in on the day rather than stay over the night before. Predictions were for a lovely warm day (temperatures in the low to mid teens!), if a bit windy still. Thankfully, as I got further north, the wind gusts were not as strong as they were in and around Dublin. It was, however, very overcast in Carlingford, but still mild enough for comfortable running conditions. Ideal really - not hot, not cold: just right!
As is my custom by now, I started just shy of the very back of crowd, as my technique for starting out slow and easy and not running out of steam by halfway. 6:00 minutes per km felt easy and almost slow, and with the rolling hills over the first 5km of the course, I was quite comfortable sticking to this pace, enjoying the scenery, and feeling surprisingly light on my feet and very strong with every step. I'd almost explain the feeling as floating over the ground. I wasn't slowing too much on the climbs, rather I felt strong and was passing people up every incline. I'd glance at my Garmin periodically and adjust my pace to make sure I wasn't starting out too fast. And adjust I had to, all the time, as I just kept speeding up. But I was feeling good, and not after any particular time for this race, just an easy and enjoyable run somewhere below 2h15. 6 months ago this would've been a tough goal, over-ambitious perhaps even, but now this is my easy Half pace. What a difference a few months of solid training can make! 
Eventually I noticed that 2 particular guys were running at around my target pace and decided to try to stick with them for a while. That seemed to work.
From 5km, the hills tapered off and I found my pace dropping significantly (and I left my pace-spotters behind), but I was feeling strong and taking advantage of the gentle downhills and much smaller occasional inclines, so I decided to see what I could make of this race and keep my pace down in the region of 5:30. The wind wasn't too bothersome either, mild gusts but nothing severe. I was still feeling strong and light on my feet and passing a good number of people along the way. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my Garmin again around 12km and noticed that I was dipping below 5:10 pace!!! Still I felt strong and kept going, realising at this point that my overall average pace was around 5:30 and that if I could keep my overall average here I'd be on track for a comfy sub-2h00 for the first time in nearly 5 years. I was still floating past those runners you always find at the races, generally the more inexperienced lads and ladies, who start out too fast and run out of steam later on (I've done this plenty of times myself, and have learnt that lesson by this point).
By 16km I started feeling decidedly less energetic - I'd not taken along any kind of energy gel as I was only planning on an easy run. Pushing myself, I usually take 1 gel at around the halfway mark of a Half Marathon, and that sees me comfortably through the distance. Easy pace I can do without any energy boost. I was starting to regret not taking the gel along as a backup... Nothing for it but to push on. I'm NOT giving up my sub-2h00!!! Somehow I still managed to maintain 5:30 and even 5:25 pace for the last few kms. I was looking at my watch a lot more often, counting down to the finish line, 1/2 km at a time. But I was able to keep moving, keep up my pace, and watched my average dip below 5:30 again. Somehow I found the energy to keep going.
To say I was having a good day would be the understatement of the century! I was on a total runner's high, floating above the ground despite my lack of energy. Smiling and laughing and singing along to my iPod (I rarely have music on the run, but decided for some reason to take it along this time). Still passing people as I went along. Somehow, around the 17km mark, I spotted a guy who'd left me in his dust at the starting line, having started immediately behind me and very quickly disappeared from sight ahead. Spotted him, caught him, passed him, didn't see him again! Wow!
By 20km I was going on sheer willpower. My stubborn streak comes in really handy at times like these - I refused to give up or even slow down. Instead, I targeted the girl who'd just breezed past me: put on a final burst of speed, counting down the remaining distance in 100m intervals (and taking note of the fact that the 20km mark on the road was 100m after my Garmin - so expect an extra 100m at the end, don't blast out the last bit of energy shy of the finish line!), blasted past her and steamed on to the finish line. 1h55:01 according to my Garmin. Official results don't see to be out yet, but I'm more than happy with my Garmin's time :) Not a PB (that honour belongs back in June 2010: 1h53:54), but close. And the first time since that glorious and sunny day that I've broken the 2h00 mark! And only the third time in my life that I've seen the underside of 2h00 on a Half.
Yes, I'm more than ecstatic at my race! :)

Trim 10ml

I ran in the Bewley's Trim AC 10 Mile race this morning.  It was as I expected both well run and very competitive as it also incorporated the Meath 10 mile RR championship. The course was a 10 mile loop around beautiful rolling Meath countryside.  While it wasn't a hilly course it wasn't a flat one either - lots of  slight uphill drags and then slight downhill sections - undulating which I found tough enough.   I was pleased to scrape a new PB, my time was 78.07 chip.  Would recommend this race next year as an alternative to Dungarvan.

Enniscorthy 10k

2015 got off to a great racing start today with my first official race of the year at Enniscorthy 10K earlier today. The day dawned bright and mild and clear, perfect weather for a lovely drive and a run. I left home in good spirits, hoping for an easy 10K recovery run after my long-run on Friday (pre-dawn 26km out in the middle of nowhere, plenty of hills and great views). A few minutes out of Enniscorthy the sun disappeared anrd the temperature dropped right down to 3 degrees, mist thick and low on the ground. No matter, a run is a run and always great fun :-)

So quick dash up to the registration desk to pick up my number (and I got a hat - lovely memento for the day), then a nice easy warm-up run to the starting line. 
As is my habit, I headed straight to the back of the starting crowd. Not the very last one to start, I was still in the last 10% to cross the starting line: less temptation to start out fast and run out of steam halfway. I tend to get lost in the moment and caught up in the vibe too easily, which doesn't do my race any favours. So forcing myself to start slow is my current strategy, and it has worked out very well for me so far. Today was no different.
Starting out at 5:45 per km pace, faster than I'd planned but I was feeling strong and the pace felt easy and maintainable, so I stuck to it. I had to consciously hold back more than once when my feet tried to nudge me  down to 5:30 pace...
After the first 2 or 3km, I was nicely warmed up, and let my legs take a little more control and bring down my pace to 5:30. Which still felt fairly calm and relaxed and just right. The route was lovely, out on the country roads outside of the town. Fresh air, and not as cold as it had seemed at the start. At 5km there was a bit of a hill. Nothing crazy but enough to slow me down a little. I pushed a little here, not wanting to slow too much, and before I knew it the hill was over and I was cruising along again, trying to catch my breath after the burst of effort. Up to 7km there was another bump or two in the gradient, but nothing quite as steep as the first one. Easy cruising up and over: I was feeling surprisingly strong still!! And looking down at my Garmin, I was shocked at the pace I was hitting: 5:15, and below!!!
So, 7km done, 3 to go, and there has to be some downhill after all the climbing done so far, so why not keep going at that pace and see what I can do?? I had been planning on an easy 58 minute 10K, but now it was looking like 55 or 56. I'd managed to sneak in below 55min at the Tipp 10K last year, which I didn't think I'd do today, but might get close anyway. Good enough, considering I was aiming for 58...!
Somewhere before the 5km hill I'd passed a guy in a bright shirt, and he soon caught me again, and we ended up running most of the race together. Little bit of talking, lots of pace-pushing. I think we were both determined not to fall behind. Suited me fine, as this strategy was pulling my pace down to 5:00 and even dipping below at times. Completely unexpected and felt amazing to be moving so fast (for me this was way quicker than my standard 10K pace, even nudging below my standard 5K pace)!!! I was feeling strong and light on my feet and just loving the moment! 8km come and gone, and the pace still blazing! 9km, flying! By this point I was starting to feel the exertion catching up to me, but with less than a km to go I decided to give it all I had and push the last bit. I was no longer checking my pace at this point, but knew I was below 5:00min/km. My eyes were glued to the time: 49 minutes and less than half a mile to go!!! 50 minutes: 600m. 51: 400m... 52: 200m and I can see the finish line. My 10K PB dates back to September 2008: 53:06. I can beat it, but I have to move, move, move!!!!! 100m... 50m... And DONE!!!!!
Check my Garmin and I had to let out a yell: 52 minutes and 56 seconds!!!!! 10 whole seconds off my 6 1/2 year standing PB. And I was still feeling strong. Tired, very tired, but strong enough to use the distance back to my car as a cooldown jog. It felt wrong to walk after that.
After downloading my Garmin logs, I received another very pleasant and unexpected shock: my last 4 splits were at a pace that I'd never imagined possible, especially at the end of a 10K!!
So in all an amazing race, completely unexpected and great fun. I'm still smiling at the memory :-)
I've enjoyed running since I first started back in 2006, but it's days like this that remind me how exceptional the sport can be - how entering my 9th year as a runner I'm still able to surprise myself and achieve new personal records, push myself beyond my perceived limits. This year is going to be a memorable year! Many more boundaries to push, limits to test, goals to achieve. Hello and welcome to 2015! Angela Ross Innes.

Clonakilty Marathon

l decided to close off this amazing running year with a calm and scenic marathon, and Clonakilty seemed to fit the bill just right: coastal, yet hilly enough to encourage a related pace.
I started out a bit fast as I was feeling strong, and had to force myself to hold back. Long run ahead, and everyone keeps talking about this hill...
Now the route is pretty much 6km out, 6km back, past the finish the line: repeat this 3x in total far 36km. Then out 3 and back for 42. That magical, mystical, revered, feared number.
This meant hill × 3...
So going along, keeping my pace in check, I hit a little hill. Not so bad, this will be easy! Then around the next bend, there it was ,'The Hill'... Oh... That's a real hill! Nothing for it but up and over. The motivational signs posted near the bottom helped: "It's a hill, get over it!". I couldn't help but laugh.
But I did it → up and over. Then a scary-steep downhill, followed by a short and nasty climb. Back to town was a breeze after that.
Repeat 2 more times. Somehow I was able to conquer those hills a little stronger each time. No idea how that was even possible, but I'll take it!
Then that final 'out', knowing that there were no more hills. Only 3km out, then 3 back. I couldn't hold back anymore, I put my feet in control and enjoyed the 'ride'. Cruised the turn-around. Breezed the slight inclines on the final 2miles. Passed a good few runners, to mixed reactions, my favourite being the guy who called out the good-natured 'show-off!' as I raced past.
I really let loose on the last mile. I was all but sprinting past the last corner, and flat out for the home straight, to cheers from the awesome supporters! What a moment! I knew too, by this point, that I had a new PB guaranteed, even with my Garmin measuring the course 400m long.
Ah, what a wonderful moment! And strangely I really WAS taking it easy upto the very last half-lap.
So I'm more than happy with today. Overjoyed more like. The year has ended on a great big high. Race-wise anyway. I will keep running. And running.And running. Too much fun :-)

Clontarf Half Marathon

The day dawned bright and cool, but without the icy bite in the air that's been making itself known of late. I was excited for my first winter race here in Ireland: for the past few years, Dublin Marathon has marked the end of running-year. Coming from a much milder climate, these Irish winters have been very hard on me, and my running has suffered as a result: hibernation from November until at least February has been my pattern for the last 3 winters, meaning I start the summer season from scratch every year. So this year I'm excited to keep moving despite the cold. Now that I have the encouragement of my club and support of some wonderful new training partners (who make sure I get out and about in the cold, dark winters mornings!), I'm looking forward to an active winter. Clontarf was the official start of it all (with formal races being less frequent since Dublin Marathon, I'm not racing every weekend as I was doing in the summer: I'm still running though). 
Except for a portion of the route being flooded (and the wonderful folks of the Clontarf Half Marathon team did a sterling job of organising a dry alternative path for us!), this was the exact same route as the July version of this race. Fast and flat, and surprisingly mild by 10am.
I went in planning to take it slow and easy, as I've been fighting an injury: little over-enthusiastic in last weekend's long-run, 26km that included the Raheny Parkrun 5K smack in the middle, and my competitive streak wouldn't allow me to hang back and do an easy 5K - I pushed myself on to run a pretty decent 28 minutes. Cue strained muscle, week of rest and a painful physio session. By then I was more than ready to tackle Clontarf. As usual I started out at the very back, to avoid the temptation of getting too caught up in the vibe and starting out to fast. I tried to keep my pace steady at 6:15/6:30 per km.
Towards halfway I found myself dipping below 6:00 per kay, and had to make a conscious effort to keep my pace nice and slow. The problem was that I was feeling too comfortable at the faster pace (thank you Bray Runners for all that speed work - at the start of the summer I was struggling to maintain 6:15, and now I'm quite comfortable at 5:45!). The beach helped to keep my pace in check, though thankfully the sand was fairly hard-packed due to the lack of regular foot-traffic in these colder weeks. Then back onto the tarred road and footpath, the turnaround point came way too quickly. Retrace our steps back to Bull Island, over the back and along the Clontarf Promenade for a sprint-finish. Then off to the soup table for some much-needed energy top-up.
The hot soup was heavenly after the run, and helped keep me warm now that I had stopped running and had started to cool down again. Nothing tastes quite as good as a cup of soup or a sandwich after a good long run!! Even the plainest fare is heavenly!!!

Frankfurt Marathon 2014

Preamble: Sitting here some days after the marathon and I don't really know what I want to write. A race report is for me to sum up the training, the lead in, the conditions, the mindset and, of course, the event itself. Something to refer back to when I want to reminisce or wallow or whatever. But strangely, the emotion was more subdued this time around. Given that it's my fifth (Wha? When did that happen?!) and the first time I didn't get a PB, I guess that's not all that surprising? 

I had some problems with my sinus from shortly after last year's marathon, which meant I was out of action for a bit. It resulted in an op eventually, so more time out. The mileage in the first half of the year was pretty abysmal but once I was back in action I ramped it up again so I was ready to start the marathon training come mid June. I had definitely lost some pace though. 
The training went really well, and other than a flutter with an iffey knee (caused by tight IT band and tight calfs) there weren't any issues or problems. I did my 4 previous marathons off a modified Hal Higdon plan and this time I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. On sterling advice (thanks to KC) I started on the P&D 55mi 18 week plan. It was a very different focus to the Higdon ones - more pace miles, more 'quality' sessions, etc. I did struggle a bit with the middle section where the miles ramped up and the pace runs got more frequent, especially given my poor pace to start with, but it generally went according to plan. 

I didn't set myself any goal time for this one. I had finally cracked the sub 4 last year which kinda took the pressure off. But the training was all done on the basis of 8:50-ish marathon pace (a bit soft maybe?) so that was the plan for marathon day. 

Lead Up: After some fretting about Luftansa striking pilots on Monday and Tuesday, the flight was delayed when we got to the airport. More fretting (though mostly of the Krusty variety). While we waited at the gate a very boisterous stag party crew serenaded us from the bar nearby - lovely! Next thing I got an elbow in the ribs and "I think that's Snoop Dog". Tall, skinny dude with hoodie up, baseball cap and shades on, pulling a Louis Vuitton case, walked through the gate and down the stairs (no waiting) with entourage in tow. One of the stag party had also spotted him and went running after him but was blanked and went back to his mates shouting "Feic lads, never meet your heros!" 
Finally we boarded and there he was, huddled in the window seat of row 2 with his bouncer squished into the aisle seat. Poor guy bearly fit in the seat and it couldn't have been a comfortable couple of hours for him - quite the rock star life, eh? 
Turns out we were sitting beside another boardsie on the flight too, but only discovered it when we were landing!

Landed, checked in, and off to the expo to get the numbers all sorted before we headed back to the hotel for a nice relaxing evening.
Did the 5k pretzle run on Saturday morning with some of the boardsie crew. It was quite amusing watching the 6 and 
7 minute milers trotting along at 10+minutes per miles. Good fun and a nice bit of banter though. 

Race Day: The morning of the marathon arrived and the conditions were just about perfect - 12c, overcast and little or no wind. After the usual pre race brecky of porridge, coffee and toast we headed to the start. Bag drop was completed with usual German efficiency, and I left KC with a good luck kiss and headed down the back to the 2nd wave corrals. Met Hibernian Runner and we chatted as we waited for the proceedings to kick off. Before long the 1st wave was gone and we were walked up to the line. We wished each other well and then Bang! we were off. 

1-10km (I'll do this in km's for a change)
The first 9k of the route is in around the centre of the city and the course turns back on itself a few times. As a consequence, there are a few tightish turns and lots of crowds and we got to see the leaders a few times as they steamed ahead. 

I really enjoyed the city centre start of the route, even though it was a bit of a slow start. Before we'd even started we saw the leaders pass back on the other side of the road and as we ran towards the first corner I spotted Krusty, looking comfortable and focussed. The sun had come out for a bit and it was definitely getting a bit sweaty, but thankfully the cloud reappeared before long. 

Aid stations were every 5k but with cups of water/ sports drink/tea(!) I really struggle with cups so decided to hold onto my 250ml water bottle (that I was sipping at the start) and refill it as needed. Even though it sounds like a batty plan it actually worked out really well. I opened the lid as I got near the station, grabbed a cup and emptied it into the bottle. Yea, about half it went everywhere but the bottle, but it still meant I was getting more than if I'd tried to drink directly from the cup!
Took my first gel at mile 5.
Splits: 5 km 28:06 (05:38/km); 10 km 27:57 (05:36/km)

10-20 km
Was feeling good and the pace was nice and steady. As I got to about the 9 miles/ 15km point I felt the need for a pit stop. I rationalised that it would be better to stop now and get it over with, rather than try to wait it out and possibly make things worse, so just after the next aid station I veered off course to the dreaded port-a-loo. Pleasantly surprised - there was even loo roll!
Job done and I resumed the race pace but I'd been overtaken by the 4 hour pace group. I thought about just sticking with them for a bit, but running in such a congested group at a slower pace than I was going, was just too frustrating. I slowly eased my was through the masses and after a bit I was out in space again and my pace was back on track. Second gel taken after about 10 miles - the plan was to take them every 5 or so miles.
Splits: 15 km 29:37 (05:56/km); 20 km 27:57(05:36/km)

Half way
We had left the city and headed out along the river. Passing the half way point I was still feeling good and was surprised when I went through in under the 2 hours. The loo break hadn't scuppered me too badly so. 
Half way split in 01:59:41 (05:33/km)

20-30 km
The route ran out to a suburb of the city and from about mi 15 we were back in crowds with cheering and cow bells. Took my third gel at about mile 16 or so and was enjoying the crowds and the atmosphere. There was a part here where we ran alongside a switchback. I was astounded to see one runner pull up to the middle of the road and looked as though they were going to just cross over and cut out about a mile or so from their race. Why would you do that? It's not like he was going to win or anything?! And right in front of the other runners and the spectators too?

And then my troubles started...
My pace was good, my legs felt fine but my gut started complaining. Won't really go into to much detail, but the chant in my head went "find the loo, find the loo, find the loo" and even thought I knew there would be one at the 30km aid station, I was going to have a Paula Radcliff moment if that didn't come soon! Oooh! Dived for the port-a-loo in SUCH relief when I saw it! This loo was not quite as fresh as the first one, and I was glad I had my own supply of paper too!
Splits: 25 km 21:42 (05:34/km); 30 km 28:23 (05:41/km)

When I emerged from my shame, I reckoned the sub 4 was probably gone, but the head being what it is at that point in a marathon, I wasn't quite sure and spent the next 12km convincing myself that it was/ it wasn't/ it was...
Legs felt good, head was okay and gut seemed to be behaving again. I still had another gel in the back pocket but was loath to take it. I had taken them in races before and in training with no ill effects, but didn't want to chance another one - just in case. 
So I just kept going. Lots of people were obviously in a bad place at this point and I was passing loads that had slowed to a walk. From the 36km we were back in the city area and the crowds were thick and loud (though nothing like Dublin, obviously). I noticed a landmark that we had passed by on Saturday which was really close to the finish area, so that was a bit of a head wrecker with another 6km to go! 
And still I kept plugging. Getting tired now, but not giving up just yet.
Splits: 35 km 31:23 (06:17/km); 40 km 28:28 (05:42/km)

With just over 2k to go I still didn't know if I was doing sub 4 or not. I reckoned it was gone but couldn't be certain and knew I just had to give whatever was left. So I did. My 26th mile was my second fastest of the day at 8:35 and the last 0.48mi I did in 03:49, which is sub 8min/mi pace. I came over the line in 4:01:26 and almost threw up on the lovely red carpet! 
Splits: Last 2.195 km (official) 11:49 (05:23/km)

This marathon finishes indoors with music and lights and cheerleaders and yes, a red carpet. After my near miss at the finish I was given a baggie and a sit down and when I gathered myself sufficiently, I joined the masses trudging through the finish area to get some water, food and the all important medal. The hot sweet black lemon tea was very welcome, but I couldn't stomach the soup. I did enjoy the banana, fruit bread, sports drink and non-al beer though.
Reunited with my gear bag, I got my recovery drink into me, found the showers and got changed before rejoining the well finished boardsies for a drink and a chat. Most of them had a very successful day and everyone was in good spirits. 

I would certainly recommend Frankfurt for any marathon travelers. It's flat and fast, well organised, easy to get to, and there a good buzz. The city isn't exactly a holiday destination but it's grand for the few days. 
I'm actually happy with my run too. Need to try to figure out what happened and make sure I don't have a repeat, but other than that I ran well and recovered amazingly well! 

What's next? Hmmm... I'll have to go have a long think about that one.

Garmin stats: 26.48 miles in 04:01:29 (9:07min/mi)

Chip time: 
Half 1 01:59:41
Half 2 02:01:45
Chip time 04:01:26

place (M/W)813
place (ag)173 
place (total)6436



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