Giro D`Italia

Why are we waiting

Last Sunday, along the East Coast of Ireland, was Giro D’Italia Day.

Yes, that’s right,  the Giro d’Italia descended upon our shores last weekend to complete Stage Three of that prestigious cycling event. And no, it’s not an annual event here in the Emerald Isle. We just got lucky this year.

Much though I love to take my bike out for a spin, I am pretty clear that this is biking of a very different sort. Beyond that, my knowledge is limited. But it didn’t stop me from getting out there to see what all the fuss was about.

The publicity machine behind the Giro have been doing their best to educate us for the past few months. Full and half page advertisements have been running in the newspapers for months and advance warnings were posted about traffic restrictions in all the towns along the route.

The Discover Ireland people produced this very attractive promotional video.

And lots of homeowners went to great trouble to decorate their homes in with Giro pink balloons, and bunting.

Some even went to the trouble of dyeing their sheep!

Sheep pink

Sheep in Giro Pink Fleece

(Image from theirishpost.co.uk)

And, over the weekend people from all over Northern Ireland and the Republic, turned out, in their droves to cheer the riders on.

Or perhaps, like me, find out a little bit more about this cycle racing lark.

I certainly found out what it was to be part of the crowd at a bike race.

Early arrival was essential, as the Giro signs had impressed upon the locals what road would be closed and when. With extra traffic anticipated, and rolling road closures, travelling and parking would be a little more challenging

Onlookers started to arrive some two hours before the predicted race arrives at my chosen hotspot. Most were dressed in an assortment of layers as befits our recent multiseasonal weather.  Pink clothing abounded too,of course, with the occasional pink umbrella and one brave soul even sporting pink hair.

There was the low hum of good-humoured conversation, punctuated by occasional laughter. Most folk were happy to wait for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Most people. Except Jessica.

But Dad, I don’t want to sit on a stone wall for two hours!

I’m telling ya, Jessica, this is the best spot. You will see the riders coming down that hill and up that one.

But Dad…

Jessica if ya don’t stop that moaning, you can hit the high road now an`start walking home

Gardaí (that’s what we call our police force) manned the barricades and were having their patience tested too.

“You can’t cycle across the road son, you have to walk”

“No Ma`am we can’t open the barrier til the race passes”

“It should be here in around fifteen minutes”

Of course thirty minutes pass before the first of the headlights come into view. The crowd turns their head in expectation. And the van flashes its lights obligingly. But it’s just a merchandise van. Still, with Giro emblazoned on the side it is surely a portent of the oncoming peloton.

A Garda traffic car zooms past and eventually a team van.

Then nothing for another age. The threatening rain now falls in heavy plops and umbrellas are raised in defence.

Suddenly, a siren…

Lead Car

A cavalcade of Garda motorbikes spans out along the route, one driving raising his arm to the crowd who cheer enthusiastically, the others a little closer to the crowd to encourage them to keep off the road. Next the lead car and then, and then….

My camera is in movie mode and the clustered pack of cyclists has disappeared as quickly as it has appeared. It barely registers on my screen.

The lead pack have gone in a blur.

Honestly, someone should’ve told those guys to slow down a sec so we could see them properly.

But the race is not done. More cars and then, cresting the hill, a line of blue and green helmets glisten as they hove into view. Big cheers from everyone. I think I am witnessing what people in the know, and wikipedia, call a peloton. But to my uneducated eye it looks more like some gargantuan alien has landed.  There isn’t a human in sight. Instead, it’s a blue and green multilegged speed machine writhing its way expertly around bends and over hill with fantastic speed and agility.

Zoom-gone.

More cyclists follow. The are threaded in little groups amid the caravan of accompanying team cars. These cars must be vital team support vehicles as each one bears racks of bikes on their roofs as they follow along the route.

All too soon, another car arrives, helpfully brandishing a sign reading Race End. The crowd laughs and starts to disperse.

Of course all this clashed with my allocated Long Slow Run, as per the Hal Higdon plan. But I figured a way to fit in the Giro and keep Hal happy. I’d arrived early to bag my car parking for the Giro and then ran three miles of the LSR.

That shortened the wait and kept me happy and warm as toast while waiting for my first Giro fix.

Afterwards, I travelled some of the Giro route along the coast and ran a very pleasant five miles around Skerries.

Lighthouse Martello

Delightful views of course added to the meditative pace. Here too, the Giro had left its mark as it tacked along the coast and on into Dublin city centre. Skerries had thrown a festival to celebrate the Italian invasion though, true to my missed-the-best-parties form, the festivities were well over by the time I arrived.

But my solo run more than compensated, as it was more tai-chi than taxing  amidst the ethereal scenery of a Skerries cool summer evening.

With the sun glowering over banks of charcoal cloud, my slow shoe shuffle came to an end. Beside my car, a piece of Giro pink balloon, lay burst and tattered in the roadside puddle, a symbol of the passing of Giro day.

The Giro D’ Italia brought a glow to the east coast and a glow to many a heart and for many a different reason.

May we live to see it again.

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Rice

There was a time when the word Rice conjured up associated terms such as curry, fried, arborio. But nowadays when I think Rice, I think Injured.

Yes, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. That has been my happy fate for a couple of weeks.

Happy? Well, you’ll have to read on for that one. But first, I must get the whiny part out of the way.

My rambles in search of the Asgard and other future bloggable material, left me hobbled. It is one of the ironies of this life that I can run six miles in reasonable comfort and yet, when I walk a mere two, my feet want to curl up and die.

True, I’d been running well that week. I’d started Week One of Hal Higdon’s Marathon Plan. But my city ramble put paid to the long run at the end of that week.

And all because I’d forgotten to insert my shoe ortotics.

Next morning, I was hobbled from my ortotic-free ramble. Literally had pain at every footstep. So yes, RICE kicked into play. Or, at least RCE.

Rest

As life must go on in the Chook House, the rest part consisted of committing to not running for the next couple of days, but otherwise attending to Mother Hen duties.

Ice
I skipped the Ice bit. Honestly, balancing a pack of frozen peas on my feet is just too much of an ahem, feat for me. And anyway, the Teens are always a little concerned that they might see said peas on their dinner plates the following week. And they could be right.

Compression

Whatever it is about ortotics, they cushion my feet from arch pain. The price of running the marathon in 2012 is that I am still very prone to feeling every tendon and ligament in my foot screaming from the effort of keeping muscle and bone together. The cure- for me at any rate-is orthotics and compression socks.

The compression socks are my own discovery. And I hasten to add, at this point, that none of my recovery methods may suit you.

For what they are=two toeless tightish socks-they are, at €37 hideously expensive. But I have a lot less foot pain as a result of wearing these little wonders, both during and after my runs.

Elevate

The elevate bit? Well, I just love that. This is one of the reasons being injury can mean being happy. Despite being a hen, I am not particularly good at laying about the place. I need a reason and also something to do. Well, injury is a great reason and DVD boxed sets pass the time beautifully. So, in the past fortnight I’ve elevated my feet through Season One of The Borgias.

Fortnight?

Luckily the feet improved sufficiently to allow for a relaunch of my training programme last week. And so, I tentatively worked my way through the first three days of it. But, by the third day a slight knee issue was beginning to assert itself. And, by Day Four I was limping into the pharmacy for a knee compression bandage.

My fears about being mummified in compression bandages may yet come to pass.

Of course, all this coincided with my being sidelined for a local 8km race. Oh, I didn’t mind one bit. These days, I think I feel more like a runner with my tales of injury than actual manifestations of speed and agility.

But this week I am showing some hopeful signs of return to pre-injury form. As the week draws to a close I have fulfilled my training programme’s requirements for Week One and a long slow run this weekend seems like a distinct possibility.

The alternative, of course, is a little more pleasant:Season Two of The Borgias with a long slow RICE.

And, tempting though that is, I know if I get sidelined too often, I will very swiftly land back to that time when Rice will once again, be synonymous with curry, fried,arborio.

A Janathon Alien in Skerries

Skerries Dusk January

I am back in the Janathon groove. Almost.

Friday, according to Hal, was crosstraining day. So I dived back into a little yoga. It`s been a while. Waaayyy too long, in fact. Which is a shame, as I enjoy all that pose holding and stretching, along with the opportunity to meditate.

Any excuse to whip out a candle, sit cross-legged on the floor and go “Ohmmmmm“.

Saturday saw me braving the rain to trot a little four miler around town. Miserable weather, but, since Jogathon asked, I`ll let you all know my brand new weapon in this miserable state of affairs: a well-fitting beanie.

There I was, slogging along for years in any old cap. As if I didn`t look bad enough. Anyway,through some lucky fluke,  I left all my old caps at home last week and had to grab one in the nearest sports`store. Came away with a perfectly fitted Karrimor beanie, complete with reflective bits.

Gosh, the difference it makes to have my head perfectly covered.  I realised that I don`t actually mind being drenched to the skin, I just need my head to feel warm and dry. And the cap needs to feel snug. Not like it`s going to blow away any second.

Prior to this, my regular cap made me look like some kind of Dalek with an extra piece of skull attached to the top of my actual head.

No, not my very best look.

Breatheable gear? Waterproofs? I have none. Never found anything to suit. I can`t bear to be hot when I run so that`s parked all rain jackets for me. Instead, I wear my usual fleece and reflective gear.

But now, the cap fits and that makes all the difference.

Today, I combined a little photography, with Teen girl quality time, and my Janathon duty, to run two miles. The venue was Skerries, North County Dublin, which, as my regular reader will tell you, I go back to again and again.

Today was rather pleasant in this neck of the woods. No rain, but with temperatures hovering above freezing, I availed of the opportunity to flash my new beanie at the bewildered locals.

And there were plenty of locals about. The harbour and promenade were buzzing. Good to see, particularly in January.

Indeed,they might all be Janathoners, for all I know. Perhaps Janathon HQ is located in this quaint North County Dublin village? Or maybe there`s a secret convention of Janathoners cloistered within the village for the month? Or Janathoner aliens who`ve plopped into Skerries for their Sunday run, just like me.

Knew I should`ve worn my Dalek beanie….

Second Parkrun

You know that Paula Radcliffe feeling I mentioned in my last post? Yeah, well, I lost it oh, maybe one minute in, on my second parkrun.

It`s been so long since I`ve run competitively, I realise I`ve got a mountain to climb. Last year I did a run a month. Looking back, I think maybe I overdid it. Which is why the foot ligament injuries and the back ache have been slower to heal. And why I got two chest infections in one year. Gotta love hindsight.

Luckily, I`ve managed to keep my running fitness up to a certain level. But it`s not enough for running a half marathon and not enough for running the marathon in October. I followed the Hal Higdon marathon plan right up until last week but thinking through what I`d learnt from my first parkrun and weighing up how slowly my feet are healing, I`ve decided to pull the plug on marathon participation this year.

I need more speed. January 2012 I ran five miles in forty five minutes. No, not wonderful. But better than what I did as last weeks parkrun-almost ten minutes miles and a shorter run. And I`d got faster over 2012. Right up until the marathon. In fact, if my feet hadn`t crashed at the twelve mile point in the marathon I would have been on track to do it in four hours thirty minutes.I don`t want to run my second marathon slower than my first one.

So instead of doing Hal Higdon`s plan last week, I changed to emphasize speed. My long slow run became a shorter faster one. Luckily, I`d kicked with more interval training from the begining of August so that speed isn`t a complete shock to my system now and on Tuesday I had great fun doing a three mile route as fast as I could. Any time I`d stop-which was very frequently-I made myself walk back until I was ready to run quickly again. That way, I covered more ground and motivated myself to keep running. And it was fun. Boy, the fun matters.

In the back of my head, I`d parkrun PB. Really I should be able to have a few PBs at the begining. I know they won`t be as easy to find after that but I`m learning the route and learning parkrun tactics now and as these elements kick into place I should have a better idea about how to pace myself.

Yesterday, for instance, I took off fairly fast(for me!). I could easily I`ve got stuck in behind some crawlers. Gotta love the crawlers though. There`s such a mixed bag in there.

There was one older guy who looked like he`d slept in a tee-shirt and then pulled on a pair of shorts that were lying on the floor. Only to discover that they were actually his son`s shorts. Certainly, there were a size too small for him. Of course I only assumed all that, as I passed him out. Then there was a girl with “I`m Active” inscribed in cloth letters on her arse. Only there wasn`t a single element of her anatomy that suggested she was in the least bit active, except, perhaps the fact that she was waddling her way through the run. And a guy with halitosis. Whew! I heard him first. He was wheezing badly. It wasn`t until I passed him that I caught the halitosis problem. Oh man. I couldn`t run fast enough.

But that became the problem. I couldn`t run fast enough.

My Garmin is resisting all attempts at resuscitation so I`m stuck with Runkeeper for now. Post run analysis on that shows that my run averaged out at 9 min 04 second miles. Which is grand for me. But what it also shows is that, by the last mile, I`d slowed down to a whopping 9 min 26 secs per mile. Ooohh, lazy old me!

The crap that was going through my head at that last mile was unbelievable. Only, I plainly believed it. My Inner Saboteur kept punching me with every negative statement in her book

“This run is too long”

“You want to stop” “You`re not getting any better you know”

“All the time you put into running and this is the best you can do”

“You should stick to something you`re good at. Plainly, it`s not running”

Man in Shorts passed me out. The I`m Active Woman passed me out. Even Halitosis wheezed past. Plainly, I was an even bigger crawler than I`d taken them for.

But my body actually felt fine. Slightly achy feet and back but nothing serious. Is this just all laziness then?

With the finish in sight, I did my usual burst. Nothing exciting. Just a little extra kick. I almost even caught up with I`m Active but I only got close enough to have a re read of her arse before I lined up for position and place tracking.

I felt like I`d had a hopeless run, but when I whipped out Runkeeper, read the stats and then the splits, I could see that I`m almost back at the nine minute mile level and would have been, if that last mile hadn`t kicked in with all that headstuff negativity. And, if I could actually keep up the decent pace of the first two miles.

Ok then, lessons learned for next week:

Get Garmin fixed.

Put in the earphones to block out Inner Saboteur.

Keep up the training plan

Check out the route before the race to find my optimal point for kickstarting my race finish

Eat breakfast.

Don`t snigger at the crawlers