Malahide Park Run

Last week was a stress-fest. Mostly good stress, it has to be said. The kind of stress that had me high on adrenaline and working, well, like a crazy red hen. That can very swiftly become the headless chicken run though, so I was glad of my running breaks for keeping my sanity.

So,I ran Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The focus for these runs is speed. Or, to be more accurate, shuffling a little faster. And well, not cutting the run short.

Meanwhile, in the past week, I`ve also tried and tried various things to fix my garmin, Apart from sending the damned thing away. No luck yet though. So my Runkeeper app is keeping tabs on things for now.

Runkeeper is a fiendishly temperamental beast.  She has a love/hate relationship with all the satellites around Ireland. She`ll often tell me I`m doing four minute miles. Which, actually, I don`t mind. Anything that brings out the Paula Radcliffe feeling in me is very welcome.

But, more often that not, when I`m panting after a five mile trot, she`ll tell me I didn`t run at all.

Maybe it`s not her fault of course. Maybe it`s the satellites themselves that have it in for us down here in the Emerald mire?  Why blame the woman after all? I`m pretty sure the satellites are male (Clue: swanning around having a great time). So maybe it`s their fault.

Anyway,I haven`t quite figured that out yet. But, you can be sure I`ll post it here when I do.

As it turned out, the satellites and Runkeeper aligned themselves perfectly for yesterday`s parkrun. Yes, I wore my headphones.(Sorry Roy and Runandjump) But not for the race`s duration. Just after a few minutes to check in with Runkeeper.

Yes, I could have let her shout out the time and distance for all in the vicinity but I chose instead to keep that info for myself. Not because I didn`t want to support my fellow runners, you understand. But I didn`t want them falling over themselves laughing when they`d hear Runkeeper`s voice emanating from the general direction of my arse, which is where my little hip bag thingy was located.

Anyway, I was pretty pleased when RK told me I was running 9 minute miles. Particularly because I felt pretty good. Wasn`t busting myself to do it. Could`ve run a tad faster maybe. Three quarters of the way through, and I was still doing 9 min miles. Kinda surprised I`d kept the pace.

At the end of the run, RK had put me at .01 seconds per mile faster than my previous park run. Whey! hey! Tiny improvement! Haha! Amn`t I easily pleased?

The best bit though was that I wasn`t as wrecked as the previous run. Maybe I`m getting a bit fitter then? Maybe my hormones were running in the right direction? Maybe my breakfast agreed with me?

Or maybe the satellites themselves were egging me on.

Who knows?

Anyway, I enjoyed it. And afterwards, instead of doing the daft Red Hen thing of running around, I walked around the park itself. Walking after a run prevents the peculiar backache that has emerged in the last year or so. And its always good to have an excuse to whip out the camera.

Today`s gallery then is Malahide Castle park in some of her pre Autumn glory. I figure, in the few weeks, the trees there will be aglow with Autumn colour.

Yes, for more pics and another go at parkrun, I`ll be back.


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

Getting Back on my Feet

Paula Radcliffe

Do you remember when Paula Radcliffe dropped out of the Olympic marathon in Greece?

5,000 M Final Atlanta 1996

5,000 M Final Atlanta 1996

Or when our own Sonia O`Sullivan crashed out of the 5,000 m final in the Atlanta Olympics?

Maybe you`ve your own favourite failure moments. Those critical points in a sporting hero or heroine`s careers when they`ve crashed in full view of the whole world. And, of course, in front of the world`s media.

How on earth do they bounce back from it all?

I thought of Sonia and Paula as a trotted along the beach last Monday. Fresh from my DNF half marathon (Yes, I  Did Not Finish), the failure hit me like a sucker punch and I could barely breathe, never mind run.

Sure, a laugh out loud moment. I am, after all, not even a neighbourhood class athlete, never mind a world class one. And my failure to finish the race last Saturday amounted to me peeling away unnoticed from the two hour paced group.

There were no eager paparazzi jostling to get my pic. No British tourists ready to hoike me to my feet. No carefully worded press release on my condition.

But, by Monday, the gremlins were chewing away at my resolve. My mind was a jumble of thoughts. And none of them were good.

A woman at your age running. Ridiculous!

You`re not going to get any faster you know.

This is just a waste of time.

Wouldn`t it be much nicer to walk instead?

Can you imagine how much harder it would be if every naysayer in the world`s media were adding their opinions to that lot?

I didn`t have such big failure questions to answer, thankfully. And this week I am searching for ways to leave the failure behind.

So far, I`ve done some training every day. Left the Garmin behind. And either ran or cycled. Cross training has to be part of things for now because the back niggle is still at play.

It helps hugely of course that I am not an elite athlete. I won`t even merit a mention in the athletics pages of the local newspaper.Even my kids, who were initially mortified by athletic antics, don`t pay a blind bit of notice  anymore.

So, I don`t have to bear the brunt of anyone`s expectations of me.

I suspect Sonia, Paula et al, had the services of a sports psychologist to help them deal with the stress and the failure.  Psychology must be half the battle when it comes to training athletes. Keeping the confidence up. Keeping them focused on what they can do. Steeling them for the battles ahead.

As I struggled to run on the beach last Monday, I passed a local gaelic football team. A grand big bunch of young lads, their training session was headed up by a middle aged and cranky coach. (And no, those two qualities are not synonymous.)

He was giving them a pep talk.

Maybe he got a little louder for my benefit. I cannot be sure. But I suspect in his whatever coach training he had undertaken, he had skipped the  module on sports` psychology.

“Ah c`mon lad, for f****sakes, yiz were f**kin no good at all. C`mon, we`ve a big f**kin match on f**kin Saturday and dem Grove lad are f**kin ready to give yiz all f**kin hell. Yizzar f**kin no good at all, lads. Look at ye, runnin around like a bunch of f**kin old wimmin.F**kin useless. Now, c`mon lads”

There was a look of gloom and despondency on the lads` faces.I doubt they felt either motivated or confident after that.

Since a lot of running is all in the head, I would reckon that psychology is an essential part of a coach`s skill set. And that insulting words can undermine the positive effects of good physical training.

I ran on, thankful that I only have to deal with my own inner critic.

It`s going to take a little while to quieten than inner critic down. It`s going to take a lot of self talk and a lot of really enjoyable runs to get me back on track.

I have no idea whether I can do that or not. But I`m going to have fun trying.

This evening`s run was the best by far since last Saturday`s failed half marathon. Three miles, and most of them with Teen Girl, who actually begged to come along.

The back niggle mysteriously vanished, and I almost got speedy at one particular point. So  much so, that middle aged me disappeared and I became a Masai warrior charging across the African plains. And then, just as swiftly, I morphed into Sonia clipping along the inside lane, head and shoulders above the pack. Then, another guise, this time as Paula, head bobbing and wrapped in cool specs, great abs, great focus and wow! the speed! Watch her go!

It`s a pity everyone else only saw a Red Hen clucking and panting as she shuffled along the roadside verge. A middle aged, spectacularly slow shuffle at that.

If only they could see what goes on in her head….

Paula Radcliffe image from The Daily Mail online

Sonia O`Sullivan image from Sports Illustrated