Sunday, 24 April 2016

Royal Canal Run Longford - Half Marathon #14

Myself and Phil signed up for the Longford Royal Canal Run partly for something to do on a Saturday morning (why not) but mainly because I need to get my ass in gear as its only nine weeks to the Waterford Marathon and I was looking for a bit of challenge. My last Half was in Athlone over six months ago and although I've been clocking up a few 21km+ runs lately, these haven't been under race conditions so I was really looking to push myself a little.

Myself and Phil ready to do loops!

We arrived in Longford just after 9am and made our way to the Canal where the Ultra marathoners were already on the course. The Royal Canal Run is a 5.3km loop around the Royal Canal just outside Longford town. The Ultra (10 loops) started at 8:30am, followed by the Marathon (8 loops) at 10am. The 200 Half starters their way (about 500m down the canal) to the start shortly after 10:30am while the 10km (2 loops) headed up the canal to their start.

The Half Start Line

We started shortly after 10:30am and I took off alongside Phil for the first kilometre but knew I wasn't going to be able to match pace (4:45/km) so told him to head off. About 2km in, we looped back over a footbridge and made our way back down the far side of the canal. The flat, gravelly footpath was perfect and relatively uncongested as the 500 runners looped the course. The first lap was great to get your bearings, each time we looped back I could clock Phil ahead of me.

We passed the finish-line and water station at the start of each new lap. I was happy enough maintaining my sub 5:00/km pace. The finish line had a marquee and PA system blasting music which was a lovely motivator as you passed it each side of the canal while looping. Lap 2 was steady as the sun started to come out and warm up the day. Lap 3 was relatively quieter as all of the 10kers had finished and left the course. 

The unique thing about this event was the fact you were doing laps which I found a great motivation as you were constantly overtaking people (and being overtaken) by others who you had no idea how many times they were on their run. It reminded me Sixmilebridge in that respect as while I felt tired on Lap 4, the person you were running beside could have been on Lap 7 or 3, could be PB'ing or struggling and I simply had no idea. As I hit the finish line on my last lap, I passed Mirko who was doing the full and had another 4 loops to go. I've never been as happy to stop running! Overall I was happy with my splits, the majority of them staying under 5:00/km (Not bad for a guy who was out at a black tie work function until 1am the night before).

My official finish time was 1:44:09. My wish was to do 1:45 so all in all, my day was a success. The course was perfect, the set up was ideal and I simply can't recommend this race enough. It was worth the drive up from Galway and we got a super medal and t-shirt to boot! Next up for me is the Galway 5K series which starts this coming Tuesday. I might try squeeze in another Half between now and the Waterford Marathon but I think my weekends will be spent doing long training runs (unless anyone has any ideas for me!)

Side Note: I'm kind of over spending big bucks on race entry (unless its something special) so when you compare events like this to other larger events such as the Great Limerick Run (which is twice the entry price) - it really makes sense to turn-up, run and support such wonderful great local races when at the end of the day - a run is a run! You get out of it what you put in and as long as you are happy when you reach the finish line, regardless of your finish time, then you know you've had a great run! 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Run Clare 2016 - Race 4: Sonny Murphy 10 Mile

Sunday was a cold one. Myself and Sinead arrived ahead of time for the last race in the Run Clare series, the Sonny Murphy 10 mile which started (and finished) just outside the village of Kilnaboy. The rain didn't help the cutting wind as we stayed sheltered in the car parked in a field until 5 minutes before the start when myself and Sinead made our way up to the start line - about 400m from the check in hall.

Baltic - making our way to the start line!
(Pic from John O'Neill's Facebook - link)

I ran this last year so knew what the course had in store for us - a nice triangle shaped route with the Burren on one side for the first few kilometers before turning onto the main Gort - Corofin road, running through the village and back around into Kilnaboy. The run started right on cue at 1pm and it really took the first few miles to warm up. Everything was cold as the wind (and rain) blew through us.

I was happy enough keeping up a 5:00/km pace and I felt surprisingly good considering the weekend of indulgence I had just put down. The road rolled gently enough into Corofin (12km) at which point I felt confident I could push to try and beat my previous time (1:19:47). Despite the numeous water stations on the course, I ran with the bottle I had taken at the first stop and never once drank water. I also never fuelled which was probably a mistake in hindsight but I felt strong as I made my way back into Kilnaboy and across the finish line.

Thumbs up as I cross the finish line
(Pic from John O'Neill's Facebook - link)

I finished at 1:19:20 which was almost half a minute PB. I haven't PB'd in so long I didn't know how to contain my excitement! (Disclaimer: This was my second ever 10 miler). My main issue with 10 miles as a race distance is that I'd much rather clock up the extra 5km and do a Half but for the purpose of this race series (Run Clare), it makes a hell of a lot of sense working up through the race distances - 5km, 8km, 10km and lastly 16km.

The Run Clare medal

The Medal (available only to those who had completed all four of the races in the series) is without doubt one of my favourites I've gotten. The race series itself really can't be faulted. For your entry fee (€50 early bird) you get four races along with a souvenir gift at each race. Throw in all the buns, sandwiches and cake after each run you really can't get much better value when it comes to race entry and bang for your €€€.

On a final note about the race series, I also want to give a shout out to the other amazing runners I ran alongside. I've said it before but really, the running community is amazing and seeing friendly faces at the start line, along the way and at the finish line really make it all the more fun! You guys are super and encourage & inspire me to dig deeper, run harder and be better! (Apologies also to Eugene who I never got a pic with).

Myself and Paula who is about to clock up her 25th marathon

With Denise from Dee-Termined to Glam & Glow (FB link here)

Myself & Sinead

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Squeezing a short run into a long run - The 'Remembering Aoibhe' Renville 5K

Trying to retrofit signed-up for races into a marathon plan can be as tough as actually following the plan itself. My Waterford Marathon plan officially kicked off yesterday as it's twelve weeks away. First up, an 11 mile long run - today. The problem: I'd already signed up for the 'Remembering Aoibhe Renville Challenge' 5K run which was taking place in the beautiful park just up the road from me in Oranmore. My solution: Run to the start line, run the race then keep running - turning my 5K race into a 20K long run. 

With some of the other Maree AC gang before the race

The reason I signed up for the race in the first place was to support the charity itself, ACT for Meningitis (website) - which is the only Meningitis charity in the country. They raise awareness and educate about the signs and symptoms of meningitis while offering free support services in Ireland to those affected by the disease. When signing up for a race, I always like to know where my entry is going. There are numerous large races (which I won't mention) that hide behind the vail of a charity name but little money actually ends up with the charity. This is one of the great runs where you know your entry is appreciated. 

Anyway, I've digressed...

So I left home about 10:35am and took the first 4K handy (about 5:20/km) right up to the start-line. The race started shortly after 11am and left the park (1.5km) before following around Middle Third, and coming back out on the main road (3.5km) as you made your way back to the park. It's been ages since I've done a 5K and I'd kinda forgotten how much I enjoy them. I crossed the finish line at 22:30 - a minute off my 5K PB of 21:29 but with the Galway 5K series starting up at the end of the month, I'm going to really try smash that PB!

Eyes on the finish line (Pic from FB - link here)

As soon as the race was over, I took a few mins re-cooperation thanks to a bottle of water before heading off on the last 11km of my long run. I ran the 5K route again and even some of the marshals thought I had gotten lost (as I still had the race bib on). I reassured them I wasn't crazy as I headed off in the rain out towards my brother-in-laws house at the end of Tawin Island. 

I hit 20km in 1:41 which doesn't really count as I had two unofficial breaks in between each run. I've never broken a long run up in this way before but I think I made it work. I've my running calendar updated and my schedule in place for the next twelve weeks and I'm really looking forward to getting tucked right back into it!