Friday, 11 December 2009
Today has been a bit weird.
Woke up at 5am in New Jersey to about 3-4 inches of snow.
Decided running in in this would not be a lot of fun, so headed down to the hotel fitness room and did 5km on the dreadmill. Which sucked about as much as any treadmill run does, but on the bright side, thats three runs in 24 hours and no real pain, no real foot problems... Must be healing.
Then a busy morning of meetings, 2 meetings with 2 companies in New Jersey and we made it to the Airport super early so I checked in my bag and jumped the train to Manhattan.
Got out at Penn station and walked to times square and ate a hotdog.
Then I walked to rockefellar plaza.
Saw the 30 rock building, couldnt find Liz Lemon, Watched people ice skate, had a coffee and cupcake at the famous Dean and Delucca's.
Walked to central park, ate brown rice sushi and salad at the wholefoods market and here I am back on a train to Newark airport a few mere hours later.
Weird day indeed.
Have had a few days of pretty decent training this trip. A nice 6-7 mile run round central park on Sunday. An hour on a gym bike on Monday. A nice 1 hour, 6-7 mile run in the snow in Boston on Tuesday morning.
Saw the sun rise over the old harbour.
Then another 1.5 hour workout that night in the gym, then finished up with the 5k on the treadmill this morning. Not bad considering transatlantic travel had been involved and about 600 miles of driving as well as 5 meetings, some sightseeing and meeting up with some twitter buddies...
One of which was Ironman Bobby, who interviewed me the last time I was in the states and the day after we met up again, this interview finally went live on his site... check it out!
Monday, 9 November 2009
So far its going pretty well. I have now been a full week without meat products, caffeine or booze. The toughest thing has been the caffeine.
I definitely have a hell of a caffeine habit. On an average day I probably drink about 6 or more cups of coffee a day, so going from 6 to 0 has been hard. The first few days I was getting headaches, feeling unfocused, grouchy and generally was not a joy to be around.
Its getting better but its still tough. I still WANT coffee.
My aim with the coffee thing though is not to give up coffee completely, but to top drinking it in the way that I do. I currently drink coffee completely mindlessly. I couldn't tell you for sure how many cups I drink a day for the simple reason that I'm not really 100% aware of how much I drink. I have a cup in the morning, then once I arrive in the office I pretty much drink it all day. The worst thing is, the coffee in the office isn't even good. In fact, its pretty dreadful. My aim is not to stop drinking coffee altogether, but to now only drink coffee when I am focused on drinking a cup of coffee. Like when I go out for a coffee, or I am sitting down with Steph to have a cup of coffee and a chat. Or just when I feel like I want to drink a cup of coffee for enjoyment. I picked up this tip from my buddy Christine the HolisticGuru and it seems like a good approach. Its also following the zen idea of focus.
"when drinking coffee, only drink coffee."I am probably going to set some kind of limit on it too, like no more than one or two cups a day.
Next up... booze. My aim is simply to drink less. I have had a tendency since I was a teenager to drink too much. I'm toying with the idea of just staying booze free completely. However, I do live in Ireland and its not easy! Its so ingrained in our culture. I have given up drinking on numerous occasions before. Once I just randomly gave up for three months. During that time I continued to go out to clubs etc. This is a real example of what happens when you try to stop drinking in Ireland
Friend: "what are you drinking"Now admittedly this was a fair few years ago when we were all a bit more into going out and enjoying ourselves. These days its a bit easier as people settle down, have kids etc.
Me: "nothing I'm OK"
Friend: "Ah sure have a drink"
Me: "OK I will have a coke or something"
Friend: "Vodka and coke?"
Me: "No Just a coke"
Friend: *Uncontrollable laughter*
At which point friend goes to bar, buys me a pint anyway and places it in front of me.
I remember one particular night that by the time I left the bar, my table had 5 full pints of beer on it, completely untouched by me.
The additional problem is, however, that I LOVE red wine. So we will see how that one goes.
As for the veganism... Well, I personally don't think that a vegan is really the best diet that human beings can eat. We are not really designed to live on such a diet. However for a one month detox sort of thing, I think its great. We've been eating really well. Ive even cooked once.. and BAKED! Yes, for the second time in my life i baked something. I have vague memories of baking scones when I was about 10. On Saturday me and Zane baked vegan Banana muffins. They were delicious! That night I cooked vegan french bread pizza. this consisted of a baguette base topped with a sauce made from tahini, soy sauce and lime topped with sauteed kale, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes. It was go good I'm cooking it again tonight.
As for training. Its been going pretty well too. Ive hurt my foot so am taking two weeks off from running, but have been cycling and doing strength training. Last week was actually my highest mileage week for cycling to date with a total of 80 miles over 4 sessions. I know this isn't a lot compared with most cyclists, but its a lot for me as a novice. My previous highest mileage week was 70 miles (although I did admittedly run 35 miles that week too... This week Ive only run 6 miles). Three of this weeks rides were 13 milers... so to bring it up to 80 I did my longest ride to date of 41 miles on Sunday morning. This took me 2.5 hours and was hugely enjoyable.
Ive also been doing push ups, dips and core work. I tend to fail to keep up on doing this so Ive been working to a new challenge of doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have had my buddy Josh the Speedy Sasquatch doing the same thing. Having mutual support/ encouragement/ competition really helps with this sort of thing. Originally the challenge was to do 100 push ups and 100 reps of core work 3 times a week. We are now both doing 150 push ups, 100 dips, and I'm doing around 200 reps of core work with Josh doing about 4 million or something like that.
On the whole I am feeling great, going to sleep earlier, getting up earlier, training in the morning and sometimes again at night. I still miss coffee.. and I'm permanently hungry. That, however, is nothing new... Its the training, rather than the vegan diet, that does that. I do think its worsened slightly due to the fact that I used to have a constant intake of appetite suppressant (caffeine).
I will update again next week.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Basically, lots of boozing and lots less exercise. In the week after my marathon I didn't run at all and cycled twice. (a 13 mile ride and a 26.5 mile ride). The following week, I ran twice for a total of 9.1 miles and cycled once (31.15 miles).
And that's it.
Off season is OVER.
Over those two weeks I ate a huge amount of BAD food, and drank far too much.
On the bright side...I got a new bike.
I picked up a cube streamer under the cycle to work scheme. On Sunday I took it out for the first time and MASSIVELY enjoyed my 31 mile ride. the weather was terrible, cold, windy and heavy rain. when I got home my feet were completely numb and I could not have been more soaked had I jumped in a swimming pool. Yet I enjoyed the ride loads. I'm attributing that to the bike!
Of course, they say when you get a new bike you should name it. So I put out a shout on Twitter for suggestions and Rae Threat, my photographer friend from LA, instantly suggested Pretty Hate Machine. Cliched as this may be... I LIKE IT. I also had John Hirsh, my pro-triathlete twitter buddy, volunteer to name it. John had previously given bikes some awesome names (BLOOD BIKE being my favourite). At the end of the day though, John couldn't beat Pretty Hate Machine... so that is indeed the name of my shiny new bike.
So. Its November and its base training / transition time. For the month of November, I will be undergoing a detox.
I'm a teetotal, caffeine free Vegan for a month.
Today was the first day and I am really struggling without caffeine.
I will do it though.
Ive recently read Joe Friels great blog post on the transition period and he suggests strongly that we should take this period seriously. Don't train... exercise. Don't plan, don't overdo it. This makes sense and (combined with what I fear is a stress fracture in my foot) means for the next 4 weeks or so of the detox, it will be lots of easy bike riding, a bit of running (if i can) and hopefully swimming but nothing structured and planned. Im going to try and post more regularly through this period giving updates on the detox.. who knows though, the lack of caffiene may be too much and i might sleep for the next 4 weeks.
Monday, 2 November 2009
I wasn't sure where to go with this, but knowing my propensity for verbosity.. Ive decided to try and keep this short and sweet.
Two weeks ago I ran my first marathon. It was a truly fantastic experience.
I had planned very carefully how I was going to get through the race. I knew the key was to not go out too hard and just stick to the plan. I planned to keep an 8:30 AP for the first 13 miles. Then I planned to let myself speed up slightly up to the 20 mile mark.. then, I was just going to see how it went for the last 10k.
The first 13 miles was fantastic. We started in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam and it was amazing to start with so many people. For the first 13 miles I did genuinely have to keep a close eye on my Garmin to stop myself from speeding up too much. As this was my first marathon, I was starting pretty near the back... which was good as it meant I spent the majority of the race overtaking people.. but it was tough in some ways as I had to be my own pacer, and i struggled to slow myself down with my excitement, that of the other runners and the support of the crowd.
Once I hit the halfway mark I allowed myself to speed up.. but just a little bit, to about an 8:15 AP. Once I hit 20 miles, things were starting to get tough. By this time my right knee had already been hurting for a few miles, various other parts of my legs were sore and my left calf was starting to cramp up.
I had chatted to one of my co-workers, who has about 4 marathons under his belt, and he mentioned to me that one really important thing once you get past 20 miles is DON'T WALK. This makes a lot of sense to me, however when i felt that left calf start cramping, i stopped and stretched it for about 10 seconds, then moved on. from this point and for about the next 5k, i was slowed down. I made sure to keep sub 9, but it was tough and i could feel that I was close to the calf muscle seizing up. I could also feel that speeding up at all would be the trigger to cause that to happen! So for that 5k i slowed, but not too much. the last 3 miles I was able to speed up again, to around the pace I ran the first half at. Most importantly, I finished strong.
Strong... and VERY happy.
I have to say, finishing this marathon was one of the proudest achievements of my life. Its probably the hardest and most rewarding thing Ive ever done by myself and purely for myself. Throughout my life to date, I know I have achieved a lot... I'm not going to list off things as I'm not trying to be boastful... but I think this was the biggest thing that I've done just for me, and it felt great.
My finishing time was 3:43:41. A time I'm very proud of an very happy with.
After finishing, I met Steph and we went for a beer. I gotta say, beer tastes good after a marathon!
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Friday was normal. I had decided to be booze free for 6 weeks prior to the marathon, but on my drive home I had already started to doubt the sense of this and by the time that I arrived home four weeks booze free seemed like enough for sure. So we had family junk food night and a few pleasant glasses of wine.
Saturday I hung out with Zane and we had a great day.
Sunday is when I topped the madness of last weekend.
I started off by doing my first ever 20 mile run. I set out at about 11am without really properly planning it. I hadnt really eaten enough to be running over lunchtime. Plus, it was very hot (for Belfast). The run was tough. Really... tough. I ran from home, into the centre of Belfast, right through the centre of a major shopping area, where my wife was working (she was quite surprised my my hello/kiss/cant talk or stop or legs will sieze up passing), then back home. It was long and difficult but it was good.
In total I actually ran 20.75 miles in a total time of 3 hours, 6 minutes and 12 seconds for an average pace of 8:58. Target pace was about 9:15, so Im happy with that. Funnily enough, my last three miles were, unintentionally the fastest.
Anyone interested can check the route out on Garmin Connect
I got home, had a quick ice bath then shower then headed off to do the thing that topped last weekends madness. I was due to abseil from the top of the Europa hotel Belfast. The Europa holds the dubious honour of being the most bombed hotel in Europe and I was jumping off its roof along with my wife and my sister-in-law.
As with last week, the break time between the two events was minimal, probably about 90 minutes. I can strongly advise anyone who ever considers doing this to not do it in the order I did it.
See, my original plan was to do the abseil first, then run later. But then at 11am on the Sunday morning, I realised.. abseil at 4. Hmm.. by the time we do the briefing, abseil, get home, its going to be dinner time.. and I do not want to do my first ever 20 miler at 8 o clock at night. So off I went out the door to run.
This led to me arriving at the Europe on sore, shaky and somewhat crampy legs. We did the briefing and headed to the roof and as you can see from this pic, I was feeling pretty darn good and totally fearless.
I have to be honest though. The fearlesssness didnt last. Once I got about 10 feet down, the shakiness in my legs, combined with the weird moonwalky feeling of little weight on my legs, combined with the fact that I was hanging from the roof of a hotel by a rope combined with LOOKING DOWN suddenly struck me down with fear.
I was, for a few moments, terrified. The girl at the top who was there as my safety person and general psychological support for the moment shouted down to ask me if I was OK. I think I squeaked out a "Yeah, Great!" but who knows. The photo below was taken around about the time of my slight mental metltdown. On the leftis my wonderful wife coming down on the left beside me...
I recovered from that moment, and downgraded my overall mental status from terrified to REALLY SCARED. Which was a massive improvement.
Just to put it into perspective. Here is a longer shot of the hotel. Im the little green spec.
And finally, one more shot of me as I got further down. At this point the fear was pretty much gone and I was just speeding down as fast as I could. Partially to get the hell onto the ground and partially because at this point it was verging on fun.
Overall, it was a scary, but exhilarating experience. I did the whole thing for a local charity called Enable NI. If you feel inclined, please visit my just giving page and donate some money. Its all for a very good cause.
Seriously.... Click here -> http://www.justgiving.com/austintanney/
How will I top this next week? To be honest.. I wont!
Monday, 7 September 2009
I started the day with the Newtownabbey Triathlon. If the Amsterdam marathon is my “A race” for the season and the Lisburn triathlon was my “B race” (due to it being my first tri) then this was probably my C or D race. Not due to not caring about it… but due to the fact that I haven’t trained for it specifically and was not expecting to do particularly well.
So, about the training… or lack thereof. Well, with my A race being a marathon, I've been running focussed. I’ve been doing speedwork.. But that’s been speedwork based on improving marathon pace. Not focussed on getting a good 5k pace. So I wasn’t expecting to be that fast on the run. For the bike, I’ve been doing some cycling, and I’ve got a road bike, but I haven’t been training on the bike as such. I’ve just done some cycling. As for the swim. Well, my last swim was in the last triathlon.. in July.
So I set out to enjoy the race and wasn’t too worried about times. I had a feeling the bike course was going to be hilly, so on Friday night I went out to ride round it and check it out… but I got lost and ended up cycling about 20 miles around the countryside. I had stayed enough on the course to realise that it WAS hilly and there was no way I was going to improve on my bike time, even though I was on a road bike. The last tri had a really flat bike course by comparison.
I arrived to my local leisure centre, picked up my pack and got marked with my number. I found out that I was in wave 3 of 5. It runs, basically, from slowest to fastest. In the last tri I was in wave 2 of 5. I guess this means I’ve moved up one level. While waiting to get into the pool I enjoyed chatting to a few of the other competitors. I bumped into one guy who I had shared a swim lane with in the Lisburn Tri and a few that I had met while marshalling at the Lough Neagh tri.
The swim was tough going. Luckily my lane only had 4 people (some of the lanes in wave 1 had 7 people) and I opted to go out second of the 4. My lack of swim training really paid off. I struggled from the start. I let the guy behind me pass me once, but then he slowed and I passed him again. I stuck with my second position, in the lane overall.. but it was not done with style or good technique. I think I did the breast stoke for about 10 of the 30 lengths and couldn’t find a pace or rhythm at all. I’m very surprised to see from the results today that I was actually 1 second faster than last time. It felt like I was a few minutes slower.
The bike course was tough, but fun. I’m proud to say I wasn’t passed by anyone on the bike, and I passed lots of others. One lady (who had been in my swim lane, and weirdly, had also been in my swim lane in the Lisburn triathlon) was a really strong cyclist and we had out own little race/ game of cat and mouse. She passed me a few times but I got back ahead each time and finished about a minute before her. At one point my chain popped off the big ring at the front, but I managed to guide it back on without panicking, unclipping or even slowing down much. The course was indeed very hilly. Nothing too steep, just lots of long slow inclines. The course was also a little longer than the standard 20km (I think it’s was closer to 22) so I was happy with my overall time. The bike racks were split up into waves and when I racked my bike it was the first one on the rack. I can’t guarantee that there weren’t people in my wave who racked in other racks, but I’m still happy that I performed pretty well within my wave.
The run was two laps of the valley park. Which meant that it was also hilly. I’m proud to say once more that no one passed me on the run. They must have compensated for the extra few KM on the bike by shortening the run a little as I did the run in 20:30. There is no way I could have done a full 5K in that time as I was probably averaging just under a 7 minute mile.
Total time: 1:23:14
Wow. I just checked the results from my first tri… 1:23:13. ONE SECOND slower this time on a much tougher course. Last time I just about made it into the top 50%. This time made it into the top 30%. Sweet. Could definitely improve the swim. Transitions were slow too, could save 2 minutes there easily.
I finished happy and proud and completely enjoyed the race. The course was tough and I was happy with my performance considering the lack of triathlon specific training. I’m sorry it is the last tri of the season. Next season I will definitely be doing more.
My brother in law, and some twitter buddies, were doing the Laganside 10k. It started at 2pm and I finished the triathlon at close to 12:30. Having picked up my bike and loaded it into my car, I sped off down the road to pick up my son from my parents place and headed on down the road to meet my sister and Brother in law at the 10k course. We got parked and got to registration at about twenty to two. Just in time for last minute registration. I had planned on just having an easy run around the course without registering, and maybe pacing someone. Obviously though, having a number on your chest makes you run just that little bit faster. So I decided to run it after all. It was tough going. I had gone out hard in the triathlon and I kept the pace going for the 10k. It did cross my mind, at around the 2k mark that just maybe I could PR this. However, once I hit the 5k mark at about 23 minutes, I realised I had nothing left. I could keep my legs going at this pace but no matter what I did they were not going to speed up.
I completed the race in 46:37. This is about a minute slower than my 10k PR. A minute slower and it was my second race of the day. Couldn’t be happier! My sister managed to get a few picture of me running. The first was on the first of two laps. I was happy, smiling and waving at my son who was grinning and waving back.
The second is me crossing the finish line. Yes.. At that stage it was hurting and you can see it in my face.
Next time some one asks me for advice on how they should taper for a 10k, the answer will be “don’t do a triathlon 2 hours beforehand”.
I enjoyed it all though. It’s a great sense of achievement to finish any race. Finishing two in one day is just frickin’ awesome.
Monday, 31 August 2009
Since my last post Ive finally got myself a new bike. Its a Vitus Alios Triple, and very nice it is too. Been out for a few training rides on it and have really enjoyed it.
Ive never ridden clipless pedals before and generally have found them to be great. I have, of course, had the inevitable experience of falling over. I was on a desserted street, on my own, trying to adjust the saddle bag, and to be honest, Im not really sure how it happened... but I just fell over. It was embarrassing, even though there was no one around to see it!
I decided to help out at the Lough Neagh triathlon and cycled to the event (about 30 miles) and home again that afternoon. This was the most cycling I had done in one day, and it felt really good. It was also my first experience of marshalling a race which was a lot of fun at the start, and got pretty boring after a while. Good day overall though and nice to meet some local triathletes who were all very nice people.
Funnily enough, on the way home from the race, I started feeling a bit of a wobble in the front wheel. Last week, When I set out last week to do a long ride from Cookstown to Belfast, the wobbling got progressively worse to the point where the whole bike was shaking and I had to abondon the ride and be rescued.
Today my wife brought the wheel back to Chain Reaction, where I bought the bike, and they are going to fix it. apparently the spokes were loose. Im kinda annoyed about this but I guess these things happen.
Ive actually just finished two weeks vacation. I had originally planned to do extra workouts over this time... but in the end I did less than normal... due to focussing on family time and partying! yesterday though, I did make it out for my long run and did my first 18 miler.
I did it in 2 hours 45 minutes, which was decent enough and I really was trying to go slow. I enjoyed most of it. Where I ran was far from flat and so I got a good workout overall. The weather was terrible. One of the highlights though... at one point, at the bottom of a mile long uphill climb, with the wind blowing in my face and the raid pouring down, I came towards and older gentleman who smiled and told me I was "the picture of strength and determination". That put a huge smile on my face and helped me speed up for the last few miles.
Well thats about it. I have my second triathlon this weekend. It will be my first on a road bike.. but the course is much hillier so Im not sure if my bike time will be any better. Ive done no swim training at all, so thats not likely to improve either. Lucky its not my "A-race" right?
Will update again after the tri, and Just to finish off, here is a pic of my new bike (stolen from the chain reaction website).
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
and just generally do things that are insanely hazardous.
My son is only two, and I can only imagine the heart failures he will cause me as he gets older and more rebellious.
The older we get, the more we move away from this fearlessness.
Obviously, this is in some ways necessary.
Risk taking is fun, but as we age and as our responsibilities grow,
we cant afford to take as many risks.
People depend on us.
We’ve got families and jobs.
However, so often people go to the opposite extreme.
They wrap themselves in cotton wool.
They get set in their routines.
Scared of change.
Afraid to do anything new.
So often, their lives become sheltered and closed.
Their perpectives shift, their minds narrow
And they become accustomed to the soft warm comfort of the easy and the familiar.
I find it frustrating when I subconsciously do this myself.
I see it in others.
And I will be quick to criticise.
But of course, I do it too.
Our society encourages this wrapping in cotton wool.
Health and safety laws and regulations discourage risk.
I spoke to a guy who was into fell running and I asked him what the appeal was.
At this point I had just discovered a love for running.
But this crazy mountain running stuff sounded a bit nuts to me.
His reason was that for many it was a stike back against the “nanny state” we live in.
His words, not mine.
I like that.
I haven’t started running up mountains
But I think this aversion to the nanny state and to wrapping oneself in cotton wool
Is one of the many reasons I have embraced training.
I actually have taken pleasure in donning a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and going running in snow.
Last night I went out and did speed work on a really windy night, with heavy rain.
It felt GOOD.
I love the fact that when I travel on business,
I no longer just see airport -> hotel -> meeting room -> hotel -> airport
I get to go out and see something of the places I visit.
This year so far,
I’ve run across the golden gate bridge.
I’ve run through a forest in Stockholm
I’ve run through Boston city centre and down by the harbour
I’ve cycled along the California coastline from San Fran to Corte Madera via Sausalito.
I’ve run in the worst snow in a decade in London.
And the beautiful heat of San Diego by Mission Beach.
Ive soaked up the natural beauty of greenlake park in Seattle
And the grim surroundings of a massive industrial estate in south-east England.
I’ve got mildly lost running through the streets of Frankfurt, Germany,
And All of this interspersed with my normal training in the less than scenic Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.
Where despite the unexciting surroundings Ive been happiest by far,
because all those runs and bike rides end up with me going back home to my family.
Ive done all of this with a busy schedule by simply getting up a bit earlier, or going to bed a bit later and by just having the balls to get up and get out.
By not succumbing to the temptation
of the sofa
of the glass of wine
of the TV.
And by recognising the wrapping myself in cotton wool does nothing good.
The sofa, TV and wine are all much better AFTER a training session.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
On Sunday I did my first triathlon. It was a sprint distance triathlon in Lisburn, a small town in Northern Ireland.
I had been looking forward to the event for quite a while. I hadn’t been training for the triathlon. This year my “A-race” is the Amsterdam marathon in October. So really I’ve been very much running focussed and have been doing some cycling (once or twice a week at best) more as cross training than anything else.
Swimming... well, let’s just say my main goal on the day for the swim was not to drown.
Coming up to the day, I had been hoping to have bought myself a road bike. However, circumstances had conspired against me on this and that hadn’t quite happened. My current bike is, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a heap of junk. It’s made by Reebok. It says on the frame that it’s made from steel… but I’m pretty sure some of the components are made from dark matter. There was no way I was racing on this thing. So luckily a good friend of mine is off sailing across the Ocean from Canada to Ireland at the moment, so I borrowed his half decent mountain bike. I went out for one training ride on it and it’s a lot lighter and easier to ride than mine so that was a bonus.
The morning of the race I got up at 6am to find that there was rain of biblical proportions and high winds. I had some breakfast and tried to work out whether I was going to need a bike, or an Ark.
The race briefing was at 8:30 am so I arrived in good time and collected my race pack and got myself inked with my number. I chatted to a few people here and there and everyone was very friendly. Most of those that I spoke to were first timers like me, which was a real relief.
As I set up in transition, I noticed a lot of NICE bikes, but was again relieved to see that there were other mountain bikes (I actually saw two others).
I was in the second swim wave, so I hung out and watched the first wave. There were four waves altogether and obviously it was working from slowest to fastest to get everyone off the road as early as possible. The first wave seemed to be really slow, and I noticed that most of the people were doing the breast stroke. Again, this made me feel a little better about my weak swimming. Once I got in the pool myself, once more I found everyone to be really friendly, and I positioned myself to go off fourth of the 6 in my wave. We all had a friendly agreement that if you wanted to pass you tapped the person in front on the foot and we would switch at the wall.
The swim set off and while it was tough going, I was happy enough considering my lack of training. I moved up from 4th to second and was second out of the pool in my lane. The guy ahead of me was about a length ahead of me and the rest of the pack were about a length behind me.
I ran out to T1 and made a last minute decision to wear socks. I had been planning on going sockless to save transition time, but had put some socks in my fancy transition bag just in case (my fancy transition bag was a trash bag). I decided to wear the socks as my heart rate was pretty high after the swim and I figured a few seconds break would be a good call.
I jumped on the bike and off I went. The ride felt good and the two lap course was nice. No steep hills and I managed to keep an average speed of around 18mph. Way better than any of my training rides and a speed I was very happy with considering I was on a mountain bike with standard platform pedals without any cages. I did pass two people on mountain bikes and am proud to say I passed a good four or five people on road bikes, a few of which even had tri/ profile bars.
Finally I came to the run. My T2 time was good as all had to do was park my bike and put a cap on. The run started well and my legs felt good but my heart rate was unusually high. I did the first mile at a decent pace but then had to slow for the second mile to get my heart rate down. For the third mile I managed to speed up again and finished well.
Overall I LOVED it. It was a fantastic experience and I genuinely enjoyed all of it. Going into the race I had 6 goals
1. Swim goal: Don’t drown
2. Bike goal: Don’t get hit by a car
3. Run goal: run it as strong as you can
5. Finish smiling
6. Finish smiling in under an hour and a half
As you can see, I wasn’t aiming tremendously high! I’m happy to say that I hit all of my goals. My final times and splits were as follows.
Final time: 1:23:13
I’m definitely happy with it. The guy who won the race did it in about 55 minutes. I came in 80th out of about 160… so again, I’m happy with that. Now I have some targets to beat! I know that with training I can shave a few minutes off the swim. On a decent bike and with training I should easily knock five or six minutes off the bike. Ideally I would like my run time to get under 20 minutes. That’s probably the most ambitious improvement though.
While doing the race I was already looking forward to the next one, which is September the 7th in my local area. I’m just about to mail off my application form!
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
One thing Ive discovered with running is that you have to have a goal. You need something to aim towards.
At first I thought this was perhaps just me. Well, obviously not JUST me. I realise that many people are “goal oriented” etc. I however am not really one of those goal focussed kind of people generally speaking. With running/ training though, I am. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, I need something to kick my ass and get me off the couch when Im tired/ its cold/ its raining/ its snowing/ its midnight/ I don’t want to or all of the above reasons try to hold me back. I need a reason to do it. Something that says I have to do it, something that can stand above the snow, the exhaustion, the fact that Ive been on a 12 hour flight and my body clock thinks its 2am. I need something to drive me.
The more I look at it the more I think this applies to everyone. We all need training goals.
At the start it may be for you as it was for me.. The desire to be able to run 3 minutes without stopping.
My next goal was to run a 10k.
My next was to run a 10k without injuring myself.
After that a lot of my goals were about not injuring myself.
But I’ve kept resetting my goals.
Once you achieve you goal. You need the next one. In fact, for me, I need the next number of goals planned out well in advance.
I think this is advantageous for a number of reasons. The most important three being MOMENTUM, FOCUS and PERSPECTIVE.
Momentum is really important. There is nothing worse than having a goal, achieving it then thinking.. “now what?”.
The second key is focus. Knowing what your next goal is keeps your focussed. This is obviously directly connected to momentum.. right? So, for me my goal was a 10k. But while training for a 10k, I already knew that I wanted to do a half marathon. I hadn’t picked one at this stage, and injuries held it all back for a while… but I knew I wanted to do it, and it allowed me to focus on sorting out my injury problems.
Finally, and most importantly to me, is perspective. It’s important to have perspective. It’s also important to aim high. I’m not going to talk endlessly about this, I’m just going to explain how this works for me.
When I was training for my first 10k, I knew I was going to be doing a half marathon. This made the 10k seem not that bad. It was only 6.2 miles. I was aiming to do 13.1. IT reduced the size of the initial goal. It put it into perspective.
I’ve now done two 10ks and two half marathons this season. When I started training for the half marathon, this was also easily put into perspective.
I’m doing a marathon.
I’m doing it THIS YEAR.
That’s 26.2 miles. Thus, 13.1 doesn’t seem that bad.
Again, even the marathon.. I haven’t even started my marathon training plan yet… but… my GOAL is to do an Ironman triathlon next year. So all of a sudden the marathon doesn’t seem so insurmountable. It doesn’t seem like such a huge thing. Its just one in a series of goals. Each goal is a small step… but it’s also a giant leap forward for someone who couldn’t run the length of himself a year ago.
Finally, as I mentioned in the title. The importance of realism. I have lots of goals now. This season, another 10k or two. Two sprint triathlons, one Olympic length triathlon and a marathon.
I want to get my half marathon time under 1 hour 40. I want to get my 10k time under 40 mins.
The point where realism comes into it is to remember that if you’re setting yourself high goals, don’t set yourself up for a fall.
If I cant do the Olympic length triathlon this year, that’s fine. I will do it next year.
If I don’t think I will be able to do an Ironman in 2010? No bother, I will do it in 2011.
It’s important to be thankful for what you’ve got. To always look back as well as forward.
If I hadn’t got a PR in my half marathon last week would I have been pissed off?
Hell no! I couldn’t run a year ago and I completed my second half marathon.
So… For the more experienced folks who may have stuck with this for this long… If you’re about to kick yourself for not qualifying for Boston this year… before you do, how about allowing yourself to be amazed that you ran a marathon in 3 hours 30 mins? (or whatever your time was).
Aim high, but don’t beat yourself up for failure. Celebrate your successes, don’t even think of anything as a failure. Look at the part of it that was a success and celebrate that.
Hope this has been useful. If there are any specific topics you would like to hear me ramble endlessly on about, please feel free to leave a comment.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Transatlantic travel can be totally exhausting. Regular trips to the West coast are really hard to take.
Interestingly though, I think as I train more (particularly endurance training) it is getting easier.
Endurance: the power to withstand hardship or stress; "the marathon tests a runner's endurance"Basically, I'm finding that as I build my running and cycling endurance, its having a knock on effect of just building overall physical and mental endurance.
I flew over on Monday, which was a long day. I was up to travel to the Airport in Dublin at 5am. 2 hours journey to the Airport, 2 hours waiting around and an 11 hour flight later I arrived in SFO International airport. By this stage Ive been awake for 16 hours, but its only 1 in the afternoon.
I headed to my hotel, grabbed a cup of coffee and decided to go out for a run. Amazingly enough I managed to run just over 10k. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon by the time I headed out... which by my body clock was 11:30pm.
The biggest problem with the run was the fact that my hotel was at the top of the worlds steepest hill.
You can just about see the bottom. Running down this was virtually impossible so i sort of half jogged half walked.
For this first run, I had a destination in mind. I actually had to pop to Sports Basement to pick up a Tri Suit for my first Tri next month. I picked myself up a pair of Sugoi shorts and Zoot top. Man those things are tight. I'm by no means vain.. but I can be quite self conscious. Wearing these in public is going to be weird!
Anyway, shopping done I ran back to the hotel. I managed to run all the way up the hill right until the last block.. where the incline had to be close to 90 degrees.
I had to give up and walk. There was just no way I was running up that!
The next morning I woke up superearly, like 5am or something, and headed out for a run again. I planned on doing a run across the bridge again, but was undecided whether that would be Tuesday or Thursday morning... I decided to just run and see where I ended up. Once I saw the bridge through the mist, my mind was made up and off I went.. I couldn't resist the call...
I do love the Golden Gate bridge, and as Ive said before, its a pretty awesome feeling to run across one of the wonders of the modern world.
My camera phone really doesn't do it justice at all, but I do like to take a few shots while out running.
I ran across the bridge and on the way back, weirdly, had to stop as there were guys doing something maintenance related. At that time of the morning, there weren't a lot of people around, but there was me, a few more runners and about 10 hardcore looking cyclists all waiting by the time they let us through.
After that, my run was undisturbed and I had a nice easy 14 mile round trip that took me about 2 hours 13 minutes. Once more, I walked the last block of the hill.
While on this run, I had been watching the cyclists and thinking how much fun it would be to ride across the bridge as well. I popped into a bike rental place on my way back and picked up a leaflet. Turns out they rent some nice road bikes. The next evening, when I was finished work, I popped down and picked one up. It was a Giant Defy 2.. and man was it awesome.
Back home I ride a mountain bike that isn't even made by a bike company.
Its made by Reebok.
Yeah, the shoe company.
Its, to put it nicely, a heap of crap.
It weighs about 4 tonnes, and cost less than £100 new.
So, when I got on this £800 racing bike... Imagine the difference. I could easily lift this thing and carry it under my arm. Riding it was so easy compared to what I was used to. I could get it up to 25mph on the flat without really feeling like I was straining. My bike at home hits 25 mph going down the steepest hill i can find with me pedaling all out.
So off I went on a spin. I headed across the bridge and went up the hill and I saw this lovely view.
See that long, windy, very hilly road? Yes, I went down there. Many was that exhilarating. Scary too.. a bit... but really good fun. Amazingly enough, climbing it again on the way home wasn't even that bad. What a difference a decent bike makes!
I followed this really pretty road out to Sausalito
Once I hit Sausalito, there was a really nice cycle path.. so I just kept going.
Eventually, somewhere, I came off the bike path, cycled up a hill and decided that this sign was telling me it was time to turn round...
The view from this point was quite breathtaking... again, the crappy cam phone picture doesn't do it justice, but at least you get an idea.
On the way back, once I came across the bridge, I turned a different direction from the way I came and took a spin up into the hills, then down through golden gate park and back (eventually after getting totally lost a few times) to the hotel. I ended up riding 33.91 miles. The longest bike ride of my life!
The next morning, I rose early once more and headed out for more of the same. This time I went a bit further on via another route and ended up in a place called Corte Madera a pretty little town. I stopped off here and popped into Pete's Coffee to grab a caramel latte. When I came back out someone had left a little present for me in my bike helmet...
A cute little toy monkey.
I put him in my bag and he will be joining me on my journey home.
I can only guess that the kid who owned him saw the helmet hanging there and thought that looked like a comfy bed for the monkey. Bet they didn't expect that it would result in their little toy monkey flying halfway around the world!
After my coffee, I got back on the road and headed back. With sadness I handed the bike back and wandered down to fisherman's wharf for some quality recovery food... Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Tasty
Total distance for the day was 36.32 miles. At one point though, I had paused the Garmin at a traffic light and forgot to hit start again and may have lost out on a mile or two, regardless it was still another longest ride ever.
In total over a period of 24 hours I manged to ride 70.23 miles and had 8,644 feet of climbing... And I enjoyed every bit of it.
Saturday, 6 June 2009
First up.. been planning on doing this for a while.
I ha vent been running / working out long. I started in summer 2008. There were a variety of reasons... probably foremost of which was my spreading waistline. I used to be a SKINNY guy. And man do I mean skinny.. underweight, malnourished looking. Often sick looking. So, it was rather a surprise to discover one day that I was a fat guy.
I wasn't Gilbert Grape's mother fat. But for me... a skinny guy.. I was big. My BMI said OBESE. In about 2.5 years, my trouser size had gone from a 30 to a 36.
That's a hell of an increase.
Now, a year and a bit later, Ive got rid of most of the excess weight. I'm still not exactly where I want to be. There is still a bit of excess body fat I want to get rid of, and I still have a lot of toning up to do... but on the whole I think its time for a before and after photo.
First up, a nice shot of me and my proud stomach with my lovely wife taken in June of Last year. Shortly after I began running and long before it had a chance to do me any good. You can click the image to see it in all its glory.
What a damn fine specimen of manhood. Check out that double chin. Check out those moobs. Admire the prominent gut. A lot of wine, GOOD food and hard work went into sculpting this Adonis like physique.
OK. Skip forward one year. I have not done any crazy diets. I still eat a lot of junk food. I still eat a PERIOD. BUT, Ive worked out a lot more. I run, bike and occasionally swim. To be honest, the running was all I did for the first 6 months or so. Ive really only started the biking this year. Since starting the cycling and swimming Ive found the weight loss easier. Although that's because I now train at least 6 days a week.
On Wednesday night I did the Craigavon 10k. I dragged my long suffering wife and long suffering son along for the ride. Well.. not just for the ride. I signed them up for the 1km family run. Which was a lot of fun. So, my photos to show the weight loss were taken on that night... First up... me and the lil guy finishing the 1km race, and yes... he beat me.
Now.. don't get me wrong. I'm not a vain guy. I am no model. But I'm proud of the fact that i manged to go from overweight couch potato, to something that resembles a fit human being.
Ive enjoyed the journey and at some point, very early in the process, I became obsessed with running. I'm also sorta obsessed with the idea of triathlon, but until i do one, I cant say much on that.
So, I ran the 10k. My first 10k was a disaster.. I was injured and dragged myself round the course. My second 10k, my target was to do it in under an hour.
I did it in 48 Min's and 30 secs (ish)
Which amazed me. I was really happy with this time.
My only aim with this 10k was to beat the last time... but I am in base training at the moment, have done no 10k prep and virtually no speed work.. So I was REALLY happy when I did the 10k in 45 min 49 seconds. Shaved nearly 3 minutes off the last one. Totally over the moon with this time.
The best thing was, the next day I felt fine. No stiffness, no pain, no injury. After the last 10k I was unable to run for a good few days and ended up having to see a physio and podiatrist. This time round, in the right shoes with orthotics.. faster and no pain.
In fact the next night i went out for a 13 mile cycle.
Anyway, here is me mid 10k. It was a very hot night so I was throwing cups of water over myself while running... so basically.. the wetness on the shirt isn't all sweat.
I really enjoyed this run. I'm off to San Francisco again next week so will do another run across the Golden Gate bridge. Will undoubtedly blog from there.
Ive also been thinking of using this blog to put together some advice for beginning runners and first time wannabe triathletes. If anyone would like to see bog posts on this subject, please leave a comment.
Just to finish off, here is the before and after... side by side.
Friday, 29 May 2009
It was supposed to take 6-8 weeks... Now, as I work in this business, I am aware of the technology that 23 and Me use and how long running a sample takes. To be honest I'm either impressed by LabCorp's turnaround times or surprised they aren't busier.
Its 7:45 on a Saturday morning. My wife is out at work and my lil 2 year old son is sitting beside me eating his breakfast and insisting that I should give him chocolate. I guess this is a good time to check out what sorta genes Ive passed on to the little guy.
I'm going to write some notes on this as I go along.
First of all... Where do I come from????
This was the one bit I was figuring i could guess with about 99% accuracy.
Yes, I'm European.
I'm highlighted by the green icon at the top of the Europe part of the scattergraph.
I can zoom in and find I'm from Northern Europe and then one more click and.. YES, I am Irish.
So.. yeah, no surprises there. Apparently my maternal haplogroup is H4a, most commonly seen in Irish, Polish and Arabs and apparently is the same maternal haplogroup as Warren Buffet. My paternal haplogroup is R1B1c. This is most common in western europe particularly among Irish, British, French and Basque people. I am SO frickin Irish. Seriously, if I were more Irish I would be a leprechaun or a pint of Guinness. I could be proud of this, or embarrassed at being inbred. At least my maternal and paternal haplotypes are not identical. :)
So, on to the meatier stuff, the clinical reports. Again, this is the area I work in, so this is of particular interest to me. I fully appreciate that there can be many errors here but its still of interest.
Interesting stuff. I don't flush when I drink alcohol, which I knew. I can taste bitterness, which again I know. My Earwax type is wet... which I definitely knew. My eye colour is "likely blue", well that's close enough, my eyes are blue/ green and vary so technically speaking on any given day it is indeed likely they will be blue. Lactose wise I am likely tolerant. I had often wondered about this. If I eat breakfast cereal early in the morning I feel like crap. Sometimes dairy does make me feel bad, other times it doesn't bother me at all. At least I know whatever the problem is its not likely to be genetic. I'm not resistant to malaria, so I guess I will be as pissed off as ever at mosquito's and interestingly my muscle performance indicates I'm a likely sprinter. Interesting, if i probe this a little I find the following info..
I have "Two working copies of alpha-actinin-3 in fast-twitch muscle fiber. Many world-class sprinters and some endurance athletes have this genotype."
Of course they also add the "genes vs environment" caveat
"...muscle fiber only contributes a small part to your overall athletic performance. Other physical characteristics, such as lung capacity, and behaviors, such as regular exercise, also make important contributions to your prowess in sports. "Which of course, I know. Its interesting info tho. At least I am not genetically inhibited.
Lastly on this section... Im not resistant to norovirus or HIV. Bummer.
Well, the lil guy is getting impatient so thats enough for now. The research reports are interesting so I may cover these in a separate post.
Monday, 18 May 2009
My attempts to run everywhere in the world are continuing successfully!
This week I was in Seattle. Hell of a journey getting there. Left Belfast on Monday morning and flew to Newark first, had about 4 hours of waiting around then another 6 hour flight on to Seattle. I arrived late on Monday night having travelled for about 20 hours in total. The picture above was the view from my hotel room that night. Quite nice to have a view of the most recognisable feature of Seattle. After that amount of travelling it was particularly useful to remind me what city I was actually in.
The next morning I woke early and headed out for a long run. The guys at Brooks Running (my favourite shoes!) had recommended that I head to Greenlake for the loop. I looked on Google maps and Greenlake was about 4 miles from my hotel and seemed to be around a 3 mile loop, so I figured on around a 12-14 mile run altogether and I set out.
I always like to listen to music or podcasts when I run... but being in Seattle, there was no way I was listening to podcasts. My soundtrack to the day was to be Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
It was a beautiful morning and a really nice area to run in. At one point I had to stop at a bridge (the Fremont Bridge I think) as it was opening to let boats through. I think I can safely say this was a first... I don't think I have ever had my running interrupted by a passing boat.
I made it to Greenlake and it was beautiful. Great scenery and great for running too. There was always a bit of the path that was gravel, packed earth or grass, so I got to give my legs a little break from pounding the concrete or tarmac for a while and they thanked me for it.
As I ran along, I stopped at one point to take a quick photo of my shoes in their spiritual home.
The scenery was spectacular. Really nice environment for running and very popular. The best thing was that round the lake, there was a nice path, but there was also always a part where you could run on gravel, packed earth and grass, giving the legs a much needed break from pounding the concrete!
I have to say I was even tempted to jump in the water for a swim. The hotel I was staying in had no pool so I faced a week of no swimming and was tempted to try a bit of open water swimming. If it wasn't for the garmin, ipod, shoes etc I probably would have.
This guy had the right idea though...
When I got towards the end of the loop, i found a nice bit off to the side where I could run up into the woods and run on the trail through there. Nice and hilly and lots of fun.
I had actually planned out my route carefully and knew there was a branch of Road Runner Sports near the lake, so I did another half lap of the lake and headed there to pick up some gels. I had planned on doing so. Had figured out where the shop was, even knew in advance what I was buying.
The only thing I didn't really account for was having to carry the damn things.
So, for the 5.5 miles remaining in my run, I was carrying a plastic bag with two big bulky boxes of Gu gels. Just for the record.. I would recommend against this.
During the week I also had the opportunity to do a little bit of sight seeing. Invariably this involved a visit to Pike Place market and to the first ever Starbucks. Which was really cool. Much as I dislike Starbucks global domination, I do love their coffee and drink it a lot. So It was nice to, for once, drink some Starbucks and know I was having coffee in a local coffee shop.
Amazingly enough, the branding in the original Starbucks (and a few others that I saw that I assume were also early branches) actually have a different branding. They use brown instead of green in the logo and the mugs and other merchandise were quite distinct too. Its quite impressive to see that such a massive company actually maintains a distinct brand for specific shops.
Coffee tasted exactly the same, of course!
One last point of interest. At the meeting I was at, there was a raffle for a kit to be genotyped by the direct to consumer genomics company 23 and Me. As I work in this field myself, I am fascinated by this. I'm not sure if the world is really ready for direct to consumer genetic testing. Futher, I'm not sure that what is offered presently has a real medical benefit or value. However, as a matter of interest and for purely informational purposes I think its great. Ive maintained since I first heard of 23 and Me that I would love to do it but would never pay for it. Luckily I won the raffle and so Ive spat in the tube and FedEx'ed it off to them. In 6-8 weeks I shall find out the results. I will undoubtedly write a blog post on this!
One final note. Am pretty that despite having two transatlantic flights in the week, to the west coast no less, I still managed to do my highest mileage week ever. Just over 40 miles! I also managed to get in 23 miles on the bike (11.6 at home on a real bike, 12 miles in the gym in Seattle).
Just to finish off.. a map of the long run...
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
an airport. Waiting to board a flight to New York, then onward to
Seattle. Long day ahead.
For some reason this memory popped into my head and I thought it worth
A few months back on a trip to San Francisco, I went to a health food
/ supplement store. I had run out of the stuff I take to prevent knee
pain. A lot of people use glucosamine/ chondritin, I actually use a
supplement called cissus. It was recommended by a friend with bad knee
problems and when my knees were hurting I tried it and it seemed to
Anyway, there I was searching the shelves of the store when one of the
employees came over to me with the usual "can I help you sir?"
Usually my male pride, y'know that genetic imperative that refuses to
ask for directions, makes me reply "no thanks I'm fine"
This time, though, I had a dinner appointment, so I replied that yes,
she could help. As soon as I said yes, she started to lead me across
the shop and said something like "I assume its endurance supplements
you are looking for"
I thought I was hearing things. About a year before I would have been
more inclined to expect to be asked if I was looking for diet pills.
A few years before that, as a party animal, drinker, smoker and all
round unhealthy (but still pretty damn fun) guy, my grey palor would
have been more likely to cause her to say this
"Look, to be honest sir, this herbal stuff can only do so much. Most
of it is a total crock. You need a doctor."
But here I was being asked if I was looking for endurance supplements.
Sent from my mobile device
Friday, 1 May 2009
The title is a quote from Tom Brokaw... and it is very true.
Was in Boston this week. Boston is a big place for the Irish to visit. Many of the people I work with have lived there. Of course, Harvard being there is a significant reason for this, but generally speaking the Irish love Boston.
Personally, I never really got why. I had been a few times and thought it was OK.
This time, I got the opportunity to understand a little more of why people love Boston. I arrived on Sunday night and went for a 5 mile run down by the harbor. Which was very nice.
As I was running down by the harbour, I just happened to run by the volvo ocean race which was pretty cool. Didnt expect that at all!
On Monday morning at 6am, I awoke to this view... and I headed out for a 10 mile run.
I ran through town, round Boston Common, round the duck pond then went to the river Charles and ran alongside the river for a few miles. It was Beautiful. I have to say, I can really see the appeal of the city.
Running alongside the river was beautiful...
I love cherry blossom.
Usually traveling, especially to the states, totally scuppers my training. Amazingly though, this week I managed to stick with it despite the travel. As I mentioned, I actually ran on the night I arrived. I ran again on the Monday and the Tuesday I ran down by the habour again
On the Wednesday morning I manged a 1000m swim. First time Ive tried to swim this distance without breaks. Felt pretty good afterwards. Flew home wednesday night and on thursday night I managed to make it out for a 13 mile cycle followed by 50 pushups and 100 situps.
Today, Friday, I managed to get back to the pool for another non-stop 1000m swim.
So... Today was day 6 in a row of working out. Considering I was on two transatlantic flights on two of those 6 days, thats pretty good going.
So, just for the hell of it, Im gonna try and see how many days I can go or without a rest day.
Running a 7 mile leg of the Belfast marathon on Monday. Looking forward to that. Longer run and a decent bike ride to get in before then. Will update again when I finally cave in and take a rest day.
Have a fair bit of travel over the next while so there should be blog posts from Seattle, Sweden, San Diego and San Francisco again over the next two months. Busy times....