The Madness of the Marathon Runner

The Madness of the Marathon Runner

Welcome to my marathon training blog. Less than half way into a 16 week training programme from what will hopefully be my ninth marathon, ...

Monday, 20 March 2017

Tralee Marathon - Review of the Race

Myself and Diarmuid Normoyle in triumphant mood at Marathon end.
*My son Luke more interested in his lollipop! (and rightly so!)

And so after 16 hard weeks of training, I can finally give the Asics a well deserved break and with it the roads and footpaths that I endlessly tread over that time! Saturday saw the beginning of all that I had been training for and to say that the weather wasn't exactly welcoming was a huge understatement!
Rain and wind greeted all runners at the start line as we left the Wetlands to take on this mammoth task. Full and half marathon runners set off at the same time with the half marathon runners doing a 13.1 loop and the full marathon runners completing the same task twice! I was fortunate enough to have my good friend and running companion Brian (who was competing in the half) to accompany me on the first ten miles which helped enormously as the headphones stayed in the pocket and the company helped me come to terms with  what were tricky conditions on a difficult course. The large crowd at the start helped break what was a strong gale heading out towards Blennerville for the first two miles. A tricky hill in Ballyvelly was negotiated with ease and then onwards we went up Caherslee which was also overcome without difficulty, but it was early days!
The road to Fenit saw the wind come into play again but after these two miles were dealt with and after a 1.5 mile climb at the Kerries was overcome,we had a lovely downhill slope at Ballyvelly to enjoy. It was here that I wished Brian the best as he kicked on for the last three miles and  a very impressive half marathon time! I was still quite comfortable heading back in the canal, behind the Rose Hotel and passing the half way mark at a time of 1:48. with a PB still within range!
Myself and "pacer" Brian in jubilant mood at the finish line!

The second half saw a dramatic change in conditions and circumstances. Without the large running crowd consisting of half and full marathon runners, the strong gale had picked up and was now a massive factor with the next two miles sapping the energy from the legs whilst I tried to maintain marathon pace. The atmosphere suffered also with numbers dwindling now that the half marathon runners had long since departed!
It was on the Ballyvelly climb second time around that I met my brother in law Peter with some well needed gels that gave me a kick to take on Caherslee for a second time.
It was on the Caherslee climb that my coach Joe O'Conner gave me another well needed pep talk which enabled me to psychologically get in the zone for the punishment that was to come.
The long Fenit Road was horrendous as the strong westerly gale again came into play. After two tough miles into the breeze, I had to negotiate a hard 1.5 mile climb again and the sight of my wife Daire and kids Ellie and Luke at this stage was just the emotional and mental boost I needed to get through what was going to be a very tough last 4.5 miles!

After the relief of the Ballyvelly downhill, I also was relieved to find the wind to my back as I head from Blennerville to the finish line. The body was still moving at this point but the mind was beginning to doubt itself. Then came Joe's reappearance and his support as I struggled over the last two miles. His constant encouragement (and giving out!) gave me the strength to struggle on through another strong breeze on the last mile to cross the finish line with my daughter Ellie by my side in a new PB time of 3:39:30!
To say I was happy was an understatement but the body was so drained that I just hit the deck surrounded by family and friends unable to move a muscle! To come through such a tough course under those conditions and post a PB was so satisfactory but would've been
unachievable without the support I've had from my family and friends from day one, a fantastic training programme and support from Joe throughout and the support I received on the day (thanks Mark for the water on mile 10!)
I would also like at this point to congratulate all runners on the day on completion of whatever distance on a really tough day for running, but especially all Nisus members who posted PB's on the day - Diarmuid (who finished in 3rd position), Maurice, Dan and Deirdre! 
As my marathon training is now complete, I will now take a break from blogging about it! I still have a twitter account however @ so feel free to follow.
Thanks to everyone who has read and supported this blog and I hope that it was as helpful (in any way) to you as it was to me!


Friday, 17 March 2017

Race Day Preparation - Some handy tips to make race day less stressful!

So this is it! Race day is almost upon us! The nerves are palpable and you can't wait to get stuck in! The morning of the race can be tough enough to get through so here are a few tips to help calm the nerves and help you to be as prepared as best as you possibly can be!
1. Have the bib number attached to the running gear the night before - Don't go looking for safety pins on ths day adding to the stress!
2. Get up early - give yourself plenty of time to digest your breakfast and mentally prepare for the days challenge!
3. Have gels packed and and ready to go - don't spend morning of the race looking for them.
4. Don't forget to charge your garmin watch - the last thing you want is for the watch to quit on you out on the course.
5. Have an old hat/refuse sack/jacket ready to keep warm at the start of the race but throw off when the countdown begins. It can be cold hanging around before the race gets going!
6. Don't panic if the night's sleep has been poor - you'll have plenty time for rest after the marathon!
7. Embrace the adrenalin/nerves - this is what you've trained for - be confident in your programme and enjoy as best you can!
8. Don't be late to the start line - an obvious one but important - give yourself plenty of time to loosen out/warm up/stretch before the race begins.
9. Take it all in! - Enjoy the camradrie and atmosphere that only a marathon brings.
10. Embrace the support the crowd brings - you'd be surprised how much it can spur you on at all stages of the course.
11. Enjoy it! You've trained hard enough for this - try not to have any regrets after the race is over! To get to the start line uninjured and fit and ready to run 26.2 miles is a hell of an achievment in itself!

To all runners in the Tralee International Marathon, especially my training partners and all members of Nisus Fitness Club - the very best of luck in tomorrows race. Here's hoping for a safe and satisfying run for everyone involved!

My race report will follow on Monday. Good Luck Everyone!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

How to cope with pre race nerves

Now that the marathon is just 3 days away the pre-race nerves are starting to kick in and all thoughts go to the big day itself and relaxing is easier said than done.
The first thing I keep reminding myself is that pre-race nerves are completely natural and won't last forever. In a few days these nerves will be a distant memory replaced with only (hopefully) happy thoughts of a race well run. It is also handy, rather than thinking about a Herculean 26.2 miles, to mentally break the run down to segments - think about the start line, the first few challenges, the support of the crowd and of course that victorious last 100 yards when you stride confidently over the finish line!
Start thinking about life after the marathon - the next challenge or that well deserved break from the road!
Take comfort in the fact that there many more feeling exactly the same way as you are now and most importantly trust in the hard work you've put in, rest up and realise that the start line is closer than you think!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The tale of the track - The Tralee International Marathon Route

Now that the Tralee Marathon is only days away, my thoughts drift to the course itself and what challenges I'll face on the day. There are a number of pitfalls throughout that will require patience and concentration to negotiate but overall the course has been less kind in years gone by.
The start of the marathon is, in my opinion, where most problems can and often do occur and the Tralee marathon route serves up a few challenges within the first few miles.
Firstly, the full and half are beginning at the same time which can add to the nerves, crowding and anticipation at the start as it potentially doubles the jostling for position that usually occurs at the start of a marathon. There is also the narrow path on the canal to negotiate after about 1/4 of  mile which is built to cater for at most three abreast but will have to cater for a lot more on the day. The second mile which goes from Blennerville to Cockleshell and returns to Lohercannon involves the worst surface of the route but this only lasts for about a mile so patience is key.
From here on out, with the exception of hills at Ballyvelly (about half a mile) and the long pull of Caherslee, the road to the Spa and a sharp uphill mount at the Kerries the course is good surface wise and also has long stretches of flat as well as the odd nice downhill thrown in for good measure.
A mental speed bump to overcome also however is that this route will have to be done twice, which is never easy psychologically but with a postive attitude, patience at key points and a bit of endurance and strength throughout, the last mile and victory lap to the Tralee Wetlands will make all the hard training worth it!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Rest the legs....and activate the brain!

With the marathon just days away, the time for physical toil is over!
No extra miles are going to make any difference now. The hardwork is done and it's time to give the body a rest and let the brain take over.
Start visualising the day. Challenges you may face. Tough uphills. Nice downhills! The support of the crowd. The finish line!
It's important too to finalise your strategy for the day regarding gels and water. How often are you going to take them? If you are going to have someone on the course to support you/give you gels etc where should they be placed.
To give my legs a rest today, I decided to cycle the course and it both settled me and enhanced my focus for the big event.
These are the night to work on your sleep, hydration, diet and nutrition. Everything else is out of your control.
Don't worry about the intensity dropping - marathon day will make up for that!

The soundtrack of my marathon training programme!

Having run a lot of miles of this marathon training programme on my own (thanks to Brian & Seamus for the other miles!) my ipod has become invaluable and even though it's not recommended come race time it has got me through tough weather, hills and fatigue. At this point besides the fact that I'm completely fed up of every one the 5,000+ songs on it at this stage, I've decided to share a few tunes that have got me through tough (and not so tough) times during this training programme. - I have also left a few embarrassing ones out! (let's just say I've found a new found respect for 80's music and it's ability to give a lift when the going got tough!)
1. Colony - Damien Dempsey:
Damo's raw energy, anger and passion has got me through a lot of tough miles and for that I am forever grateful!
2.I Want to Break Free - Queen:
A handy one when you're bunched at the start of a race! Freddie's big voice has given me a lift and a new sense of freshness when needed!
3.I Feel it Coming - The Weeknd feat Daft Punk:
The easy listening of this tune has calmed me mentally,forgetting the pain and just drifting along without a care in the world!
4.I Can't Explain - The Who:
Upbeat tune that just tends to speed up the legs subconsciously.
5. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
Come on admit it! We've all had this blaring whilst we power on trying our best to stop ourselves shadow boxing at the same time! Classic!
6. Sweet Disposition - Temper Trap
Nice steady beat that increases/loudens as song continues resulting in uptempo stride and feelings of joy!
7. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
Guitar licks that can't be beaten and nice rapid drum beat - just don't skip ahead before legendary solo near the end!
8. Right Here Right Now - Fatboy Slim
If you can't get the legs pumping with this in your ears - you're technically dead!
9. Starlight - Muse
Big venue tune that can give a well needed lift due to Matt Bellamy vocals and loud guitars!
10. All My Life - Foo Fighters
Why not let Dave Grohl wake you from your mid run slumber and give you that well needed kickstart to keep going over the last few tough miles!
11. Scooter - Faster Harder Scooter.....only kidding (Who actually listens to that sh""te?)

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Trust your programme on marathon day!

 Throughout this blog I've constantly noticed how preparation, practice and attitude has changed this time around but one thing however has remained constant to all marathon training programmes during the taper period - Mental fatigue and doubt have ever so slowly began to creep in! The solution to this - Trust your programme and all will turn out for the best on the big day!
As intensity and mileage drops it's easy to get that bit paraniod about the level of training you're doing and not feeling like it's enough, but the reality is that the hard work is now done and the body needs time to rest and recuperate before it faces one last bout of punishment on marathon day!
I often feel a bit tired during this programme and every niggle becomes magnified as I want to be 100% fit and ready come the race itself! During the programme, a knock wouldn't mean a great deal unless it seriously affected training times or intensity but come marathon time I always worry that I won't be totally fit at the start line. It usually amounts to nothing as once the starter pistol goes off, these niggles are soon forgotten and I'm focussed on the job at hand!
So my advise (for what's it worth!) for anyone that may be experiencing similar emotions at this stage during their taper is - all the hard prep is now done, trust in your programme and the effort you have put in up to this point, concentrate on diet, nutrition and rest and even though you may not feel like it at times - you will be ready to give it your best shot come marathon day!