Wednesday, October 05, 2016

RACES: Wicklow Novice cross-country 2016 (Ashford)

I haven’t felt as settled going into a race for 3.5 years as I did today ahead of the Wicklow Novice Cross-country hosted by Ashford AC on the Polo Grounds there. Last year’s tough hilly Wicklow Master’s course had been replaced by a ‘Phoenix Park-like course’ – a fast course with only few small hills and brief sections that were slippy and soft by the time the senior races came around.
Speaking off, after a near-perfect morning preparation for myself at home, our Glendalough AC organisation had a less than glorious moment. We had made certain assumptions about race times – predicting the typical start times of 1 pm and 1:30 pm for senior ladies and senior men’s race with the intention of meeting up at 12 am. Unfortunately, this is an assumption I have picked up on the Dublin and Leinster circuits where this is the norm – in Wicklow the time table is determined at 11 am on the day of the race. We didn’t pick up on this as our club decided not to enter our juniors into the cross-country series this year and thus had no representatives there early on. I won’t belabour the details just the consequences: we ended up fielding only 1 lady (Claire O’Callaghan) and 3 men which meant we could not compete in the team competitions as they require 3 and 4 runners respectively. This would be the only major disappointment on an otherwise great day. Our ladies would have had a good shot at medals whereas looking at the men’s result it is unlikely even the inclusion of Torben and Derek would have seen us in contention.
after it was all over

‘A perfect morning’
Until then I could not have asked for a better pre-race run-up. A very tough and surprisingly strong windsprint session on Thursday had been followed by 70-odd minutes of trail on Friday. Saturday I continued my experiment with slightly more aggressive pre-race day routines. Instead of my customary 4-6 x 100 m strides, I do longer repeats but in low volume. It’s a notion I picked up a long time ago from research into an area called ‘priming’ (essentially the idea that this does not tire you before the race but leaves the body in a state of greater readiness). Before Star of the Seas last Sunday, I had used 3 x 300m with 200m float repeat. This week I used 4 x 200m with running recovery until heart rate dropped down below 130 bpm again. These sessions always buffered by easy running. Why bother having different versions? Because I agree with some of the leading thinkers in training methods at the moment: variability in training is one of the biggest stimuli for improvement – especially of the brain and nervous system – and that’s where you can get the quickest benefits. So instead of using the exact same routine, I shuffle them. I finished the priming run confident – my legs were springier than in a long time and the body just felt ready to go.

Sunday began with my customary cold shower before enjoying a very large breakfast – one of the perks of late-in-the-day racing. I did a bit of suppling and lifted a few weights – nothing excessive – just waking up the body step by step. As Aoife left to do volunteer duties, I teamed up with my son Cillian for the next bit of preparation: immersing myself in cold water for 10-15 minutes in our bathtub. Cillian’s role is simple: throw rubber ducks at me to keep me distracted while I settle into the cold.  A lot of new research has confirmed that cold immersion close to events can improve performance. For those curious about the topic look up ‘Cold Thermogenesis’ and read the different protocols. For me it’s my main recovery weapon now: most runs are finished in the river or the bathtub or, failing the time, with a cold shower taking special attention to hose the legs down. On race day I put in a hot shower as a ‘contrast’ to heat the muscles up and not expend energy to reheat. On a normal day I do not do this as I want my body to be able to reheat itself. That’s the whole point: returning our bodies natural ability to thermoregulate even in the face of extreme temperatures. That’s a better investment than the most expensive jacket. There are more powerful reasons – related to magnetism and energy flow in our cells – for cold exposure but too big a side-step to talk about it here.

Trouble on the Polo Grounds
My pre-race bliss was shattered shortly after arriving when, carrying Cillian around, I became aware the races would start long before expected. A flurry of texts and phone calls followed and by the end of the storm some nice lady had volunteered to take Cillian to Aoife and we had three men and Claire ready to race – although Claire would have to do with a very truncated warm-up!

Panic at the start!

Torben – who couldn’t quite take advantage of his nickname ‘Turbo’ in this instant – was on the road from Ballsbridge and the clock was ticking. He was our lead-man and would have been a good 2 minutes ahead of me today had he raced and a good bet for the top-10. We pondered delay tactics. Could Barry fake a heart attack? Could Colm use a series of false starts to buy him time?

Claire in the the thick of it

 All the while, Claire was in the thick of the business of racing even without the other two musketeers to assist her – Donna and Yvonne – who were by now cheering on from the side-lines. Aisling Kirwan had gone off strong as she has in previous years. The open question was whether it was a too strong or not. Some spectators favoured the Ashford AC girl sitting in 4th position on the first lap to charge through. In the end the deck did not shuffle much – Aisling got a break from Claire who had been a presence on her shoulder for some time and held on – but only by 4 seconds. ‘I was driven to victory by the thought of having to run the Novice again at age 45’, she explained after.

For Claire the short warm-up had not been the only spanner in the works – going into the final sharpening week ahead of this race her hip had acted up and she had only resumed easy running earlier in the week missing our planned ‘sneak premiere’ at Star of the Seas were Torben and I had blown our own cobwebs out of the tubes. She had done an easier version of our Thursday sharpener and come through unscathed but it was not ideal. In the end she showed great grit to hang on for a silver medal – she’ll need a bigger drawer at the rate she’s collecting them this last year.

We're off

Men’s race
Cyril Smyth fired the starting gun as Colm, Barry O’Neill and I gazed wistfully across the grassland hoping to see the tall figure of Torben striding over from the car park but in the end the gun went and individual glory alone was the pursuit we had to put our heads to. Had Derek Cullen not gone down with a bug the evening before, we may not have been so tight to the bone in terms of numbers. I was in the ideal position for the start – on the very inside and with a clear run to the nearest corner. I was better positioned than I expected early on and did not feel overwhelmed by the intensity. Only later – analysing the run on Strava – could I see that the start was a good bit faster than I have been running anything in the last few years (3:37 min/km – the fastest of the 6ish kilometres I’d run).

Barry O'Neill

On current form I would have expected Barry O’Neill to lead our line in the absence of Torben, Amidou (work commitments) and Angus Tyner (orienteering commitments) but he had his own question marks to deal with. His careful preparation for the Dublin Marathon had to be aborted when he was put on the side-lines for several weeks with a debilitating back injury. A few weeks easy running had restored enough confidence for him to ‘give it a go’ and in the end he’d run very well. I caught a glimpse of him during lap 2 – sitting a few hundred metres back – as I rounded a corner and he would work his way through the field on the last lap and will be confident of even more of his current condition returning at next week’s Intermediate race. Colm suffered after a hard start. A foot niggle that has troubled him flared up midway and he managed it from there to finish in 43rd and 28:14.

3 x 2 km laps
I found myself running with Tony Collins briefly on the first lap – my compatriot from the Fionnuala McCormack Kilomarathon Relay on September 10th – running his 2nd race after his return. I pulled clear during the first lap but for every Parnell runner I passed there seemed to be another one ready to pass me (indeed we were outnumbered 10 to 3).

 I gained some spaces both on the first and second lap where I even had time for a bit of crowd-waving, ‘thank you’ shout-outs to encouragers and throwing one-line situation reports to Aoife. I was in control at this stage. One Parnell runner, Tom Moore, however, came through very strong and while his pull past me allowed me to also gain, his break was decisive. Not so with a ding-dong battle with Billy Tyrrell. Several times during the race he pulled past me and I had to repass. But this only confirmed I had reserves.

Ding-dong with Billy Tyrrell

 Or so I thought – hitting the first corner of the third lap the pain went up a by a significant notch. What maintained me now was the ‘see Jesus’ session on Thursday. I had run the windsprints so hard that the pain had changed to euphoria. Knowing I could push the heart to the brink gave my rusty race confidence the polish it needed to not panic and continuing pushing on all sections. I was particularly aware of the steepest part of the course – a two-part short hill just as you enter the long stretch to the finish. It almost cost me a place on lap 2 and I knew the same mistake could be fatal on lap 3 as my sprint finish is not one you would want to get you out of trouble. I am no Richie Healy (as anyone who has taken the ‘Healy Kick’ will attest). So coming up the final hill I pushed hard – hard enough that I knew there was a risk of being defenceless in the sprint. Thankfully I could still speed up – not to sprint speed but enough that no threat came from behind – my gap to Billy was 5 seconds in the end.

The very long final push

Never look back – or perhaps let’s look back a bit
 I was unaware of this – due to my refusal to look backwards unless I’m on a bend – I simply thought ‘push, push, push’ as the finish stretch seemed to go on forever and ever. Gasping over my knees at the finish I noticed for the first time that Irish Olympian Fionnuala McCormack was acting as club marshal. What a wonderful sport to be in when the top athletes do not hold themselves too precious to officiate at a ‘lowly’ local event. I imagine she has quite a few fond memories of the Wicklow Novice – perhaps the place where she learnt the foundation for her international cross-country success. Both Barry O’Neill and Tony Collins gained ground on me during the last lap – Tony finishing in 23rd (9 seconds down) and Barry in 25th (12 seconds down). Usually I am the one leaving it too late. It was a good performance on many levels:

  • ·         % of winning time 110% - by far the closest I have finished to a winner in cross-country (Dublin Intermediate 2009 saw me in 115%)
  • ·         Best position ever finishing 20th (previous best was 31st in the Wicklow Intermediate but that was out of 38 runners!)
  •       Second best relative position in a cross-country field (144% into the field – my best was in Teacher’s with 136% but that is a lower standard race than the AAI ones. My second best relative place was 162% when finishing 62nd out of 100 in the Dublin Novice 2009)

  • ·         My 3rd best pace in a cross-country race (3:50 min/km – versus 3:44 in Leinster Novice 2009 and 3:50 in Dublin Novice 2009 – of course courses are hard to compare)

We missed out on a great chance to compete for Ladies medals this time but have only ourselves to blame and thankfully not long before we can give it a second go at next week’s Intermediate.

Claire with her medal

Missing out
Unfortunately, I will not be able to compete as I have to travel back for my grandmother’s funeral. She passed this Tuesday at the grand old age of 94 – one year and a month after my mother left us. The day before will be busy for the club – we are organising Run the Ridge (a 20 km and 8 km mountain/trail run). I am also sorry not to see the work we’ve put into this but going home to pay my respects and catch up with the family obviously takes priority. Next up then will be the Avondale 4-mile race on 20th of November as the warm-up before the Wicklow Seniors where we can field a decent team and then our road-trip to the Dungarvan 10 mile in February. Amidou is sadly out for the season as he leaves for a work stint in Mali then. The upside: two months of largely uninterrupted training between then and now should allow me to take another step ahead fitness-wise especially with an eye on 2017. Certainly having such a success in my weakest running discipline is huge encouragement and taking 20 seconds off my average pace from Star of the Seas the week before was even better.


I want to end by thanking Ashford AC for great organisation and a really enjoyable and interesting course.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

RACES: Return to Stamullen (Star of the Seas cross-country 2016)

'That was the most horrible race I ever did.' Torben had only spoken the words a few seconds after I crossed the finish line and I knew the wait continued: the years had passed and still I had not met a runner enjoying their first cross-country race. 'But I am kind of enjoying it now,' he finished.

A big club trip had been planned to make this early-season cross-country run a general rehearsal for the upcoming back to back weekends of Wicklow County action. Injuries and other race commitments whittled our travelling squad down to just two: the two Danes, Torben and I.

The years roll by

Long years seem to pass between each of my trips here: 2007 saw my first outing and 2011 the second. Why it took me so long to return I don't know for it is a real classic. No medals, no t-shirts, no loud-speakers, no guided warm-up routines or goodie bags. Just good old-fashioned racing for €15 including the tea and brack afterwards. The field is placed as a cross-country course should be: in the middle of nowhere between Greenanstown, Julienstown and Stamullen in County Meath. This should not fool us into thinking the race is easy-going - this is a terrifically well-laid out cross-country over 4 x 1500m laps including 8 steep climbs (2 per lap), 8 descents and odd flat sections in between.

I stepped out off my car and into the heavy grass in brilliant sunshine. By the time I reached registration grey clouds had gathered and by the time we had made our way up the first hill and into the first descent a fierce rainy blaze hit us head-first. It was an odd wind almost sucking the air away from your lungs it seemed. This was the closest I was to Torben - less than 50 m back. He slowly made up more and more ground especially on the climbs to finish in a fine 22:30 for the 6 km.

My start was better than expected but then I hit a midway crisis and the usual thought of 'I'll have to drop out'. The fact a man over 60, running in his bare feet, was 100 m ahead of me quickly banished such thoughts and I steadied my own private ship and got stuck into the race again. I had lost 4-5 spaces here and would only regain one but on the other hand I would lose no more.

Age no barrier - at least for some of my competitors

Coming towards the finish my older co-competitor and a runner in yellow singlet were the only two in reach. I passed the Masters runner at the top of the hill and thought I'd be gone on the descent but he thought otherwise. Only in the last 100 metre could I let my lesser years count enough to secure the spot. Afterwards I thought how 37 is an odd age - too old to be young and too young to be old which I suppose is why we call it middle-age.

My time of 24:41 was slower than on the two previous outings here (23:53 in 2011 and 24:09 in 2007) but conditions were also much slower than on the previous occasions. Since early summer my VDOT has climbed from 48 to 52 and at this rate I will be back in PB shape by Spring next year. It's no coincidence that this coincides with giving up the day-job and being able to work full-time on 'the dream' - being content in life is the foundation for everything else - sporting or otherwise.

Now for the serious business...

As a dress rehearsal it was nice to get the cob-web blown off the lungs - my chest was markedly tired after. The Wicklow Novice awaits and with three of our top-4 club runners being absent, the rest of us will need to work a bit harder. I experimented with a new routine removing my easy run with strides in favour of 4 x 300m repeats with 200m float to try and prime the machine more. It worked well enough and I was happy how I kept working hard into the hills - an area I normally concede significant ground on.

I discussed the point on cross-country with Torben again after: it's training for other stuff we runners want to do - hills, road, track - at least for the majority. So the initial shock of doing, the general dislike of being part and the inevitable satisfaction of completing are part and parcel but also simply part of a training process. Cross-country is a strengthener for the winter training ahead and it hones largely neglected skills nowadays - racing man against man, picking a good line, dealing with the unexpected, bringing the intensity and keeping the spirits high in difficult conditions. Ok, there was no heavy plough and obstacles like in the old days but it wasn't a golf course either. My dad did not have much to work with - sporting wise- with me as I was both disinterested and without obvious talents as a child. Yet, he did lay a decent foundation for this dragging me through forest floors from the age of 5, running in dark forests during bitterly wet and cold Danish Autumn nights and having to cross river streams early on and spend the rest of the evening sitting wet in a car. We need this sort of stuff today - more than ever....

Race details

Monday, September 12, 2016

RECCE: Run the Ridge

‘What better way to spend a day like this.’ Such was the sentiment of Torben Dahl, our Race Director for the inaugural Run the Ridge race, as we slogged up the first of two slow drags on the Wicklow Way section of the semi-looped course. The Sunday sun had abandoned our hills and with it any opportunity to ‘run the ridge’ with dry feet. On a such a day the Derrybawn Ridge, the mountain traverse that has lend its name to the event, offers one of the easiest and fastest open mountain trails in Wicklow. Today would be very different but Torben, Gypsy (my trusty dog) and I could put those thoughts well into the future as we first had 10 km of meandering uphill on first the Glendalough Green Road and then the Wicklow Way to contend with.

The Derrybawn Ridge

We started out at 10:30 am, the weather warm but plenty of easy drizzle in the air, following the official start from the Laragh GAA pitch past the Woollen Mills and then into the first short and steep climb onto trail. The first junction of the course follows shortly after – runners take the higher path up the (in)famous zig-zag trail instead of continuing on the Green Road towards Glendalough. These zig-zags have formed part of many hill running sessions for our local club Glendalough AC and with good reason: the gradients are punishing in places but the trail itself is a joy to run. After about 2 km of mainly uphill running, the trail relents and a short flat section follows to the 2.5 km point. The junction is important to note: on the 8th of October, two courses will be run as part of the ‘Run the Ridge’ event – an 8 km trail event and a 20 km hybrid trail and open mountain run. The latter is the main event that the name refers to as only that event brings runners all the way out onto the Derrybawn Ridge. The shorter route takes a left-turn here with the longer course continuing straight ahead.

Derrybawn mountain itself is part of the greater Mullacor massiff forming a nearly continuous ridge from boggy Corrig close to Lugnacoille all the way to Laragh village. The mountain is lower than most of its Wicklow cousins (495 metres at the highest peak) but made up of seven small ‘heads’. It has featured in a few classical races organised by the Irish Mountain Running Association – such as the original Ballybraid route and the daunting ‘Circuit of Glendalough’ – and also has to be conquered midway through the Wicklow Round Challenge.

Vertical metres for the money

In ‘Run the Ridge’ you approach the mountain from the Western side. As Torben, Gypsy and I pass by the junction, we continue towards the Wicklow Way. This is a flatter section with both ups and downs but not long climbs and also one of the best viewing points of the Upper Lake. Shortly after this we finally intersect the Wicklow Way after about 6 km of running and now continue on it towards Drumgoff and Glenmalure. Come 8th of October you’ll be greeted by Autumn colours throughout this section as most of the first 10 km are on forest trails. Around 8.5 km into the run we leave the Wicklow Way behind us taking a left turn. The trail gets softer and gentler here. Our legs were tired from the weekend’s racing and we were beginning to feel a bit weary of the long climb – thankfully you reach the most interesting part of the course just as you’re likely to experience the same thing. Just before the 10 km mark you break through the forest at a gate and emerge on open mountain. A short steep grassy trail leads you to the far end of the Mullacor ridge. The trail here is easy to follow and wider than you might expect for an open mountain trail. After about another 500m of running you hit a left turn – as you gaze down it you can see the full 3 km of the Derrybawn Ridge where the fun really begins. 

'You're certainly getting good value for money in this race,' Torben nodded with reference to the plentiful climbing and variety of terrain we had encountered before the ridge was even over. I couldn't help think that it would make a perfect final strength builder ahead of Dublin - being 22 days exact ahead of the Dublin Marathon.

With the rain pouring the ridge is slippy and some care must be taken but Derrybawn Ridge remains a friendly ridge without dangerous drops and very extreme terrain. But you will bring shoes with grip if you know what is good for you. After many short ups and downs, we arrived at the summit cairn which tells you that the ridge is about to end. You cross a short muddy section before a careful trot past a steeper rocky section and then take a right-turn at a very visible y-junction. Like the rest of the course this will be clearly marked on the day.

It’s single-file here for a brief spell on a narrow trail of dirt and grass before you emerge back on a rock-strewn trail. The penultimate ascent ‘hides’ on this trail – just as you don’t expect it a short steep climb pops out of nowhere. Then a furiously fast descent to the point where the long course rejoins the short course on the very back-end of what is called ‘Derrybawn Woods’ locally. It is here that a slight cruelty awaits: a final climb of nearly a kilometer but then you are done. All that remains is to descend to the zig-zags and follow the first 2 kilometres back to the GAA pitches. Keep in mind that your work will not be done until you have done an 800m lap of the full GAA pitches and cross the finish line mat. Why are we so cruel? Well partly we want a good show as people enter but we also wanted to create an 8 km and a 20 km route which this final ‘lap of honour’ allows. Just plan this into your race pacing – the going can be tough on the heavy grass on tired legs – ours certainly was. Relief is not far away – water and spread will await you and a nice cool river is less than 200 m walk from the finish line. Going back for lunch at my house we felt nicely 'worked out'. At an easy pace the run took us 2 hours 15 minutes.

We think people will really enjoy this route and hope to see a good inaugural crowd. As a long-time admirer of the fell and mountain running culture of the British Lake District, Glendalough AC and myself are eager to grow the event into a true 'Sports Day' with grass track races and other events. But its been our experience that doing everything at once leads to not doing everything the best possible way. So this year we begin with the long and short course and a junior course (route to be confirmed) and if you enjoy the event as much as we do we'll continue to develop from here and continue our work of developing sports development in the Laragh/Glendalough area.

Authors note: Run the Ridge was conceived to raise funds for Laragh GAA and Glendalough AC. It began with a recce by myself and Niall Corrigan, chairman of Glendalough AC, and further explorations followed by Niall and Barry Murray, the Wicklow and Kerry Way winner and owner of OptimumNutrition4Sport. Niall Corrigan took the early blueprints which were generally 18.5 km in length to arrive at the current version which is definitely superior as it uses the best trails onto the ridge and the least involved descent from it. Many descents from Derrybawn lead to rough terrain and private ground and some extend the route unnecessarily to what we wished to achieve.  A final modification - the 800m lap was added to bring the long course to 20 km and the short to 8 km. The short route was based on my earlier conception - the Derrybawn Woods trail race, run as part of the IMRA Trail League in 2014 - however this route is heavily modified. firstly the starting point is now different (moved from the Green Road on the Glendalough side to the GAA pitches in Laragh) and the route is run counter-clockwise rather than clockwise. The zig-zags remain the biggest challenge of both routes - both coming up and going down - but runners now avoid the rough overgrown terrain and instead stay to better trails. This way we feel the two races offer a nice balance: an approachable and straightforward trail challenge and a long hybrid race which is both a physical challenge and, during the 3.5 km open mountain section, a technical one. This should not leave the illusion that the run the Ridge run is 16.5 km of easy fire-road. Trail surfaces are very varied on the route and meanders constantly - boredom should not be a problem!

To sign up go to

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Run the Ridge

I get involved in a bit of everything these days. Our club Glendalough AC were approached last year by Laragh GAA about helping to organise a race on the Derrybawn Ridge as a fund-raiser for both clubs.

We have a good working relationship with Laragh GAA and use their pitches for Thursday night training which is especially important in winter where we have use of the flood-lights. So now the project is off the ground and for my hill running friends reading this I hope you'll enjoy the courses we have put on offer.

Niall Corrigan, a former client of mine and chairman of Glendalough AC, and myself ran the first version which laid the foundation for the final version which was found after several more routes were tested by Niall and Barry Murray from OptimumNutrition4Sport and Primal3.

The long course is 20 km and takes in all the good parts of the Derrybawn Ridge which, on a dry day, can be one of most enjoyable runs in the heart of Wicklow. For the short course I opted to re-use some parts of the IMRA Trail League 'Derrybawn Woods' route I concocted two years ago. But I removed the rough over-grown path and created a bigger loop. The start is also different - on the Laragh GAA pitches.

Check out the event and I hope to see some old hill running friends here:

We are hoping to relocate the site to tomorrow and there is currently a technical issue with the 'Course details' page which I will look into fixing tomorrow as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

DIARY: A new day - 'full-time athlete'

Friday marks the beginning of a new chapter of my life as I leave the IT industry – and steady employment – after 11.5 years working for a major multinational. This begins my life as a full-time professional coach and (laughs!) athlete and also, in due time, therapist as I am finishing off my diploma at the NTC to add another string to my bow and help take care of runners from ‘cradle to grave’.

I accepted redundancy and look forward to now ploughing 100% of my energy and enthusiasm into one project. Having my moonlight projects ongoing since 2011 means I don’t go into entrepreneurship with any blue-eyed na├»ve optimism but with resolute realism. Being an entrepreneur is no easy ride but it suits where my philosophical leanings have evolved over time. I like the idea of being my own boss for the same reasons I coach personal empowerment. I believe the future will see smaller and smaller companies and more sole traders as technology blows away a lot of the barriers that currently give large companies a huge advantage. I don’t expect everyone to be an entrepreneur or all big companies to disappear – merely a marked shift in the direction.

One of my favourite writers Nassim Taleb wrote: ‘nothing is more addictive than a monthly salary’ and he is right. At the end of the day our economic system is designed so that money follows value except where organisations become so large that transparency becomes difficult or money too easily available (or where ethical practices allow people to gain value at the expense of others). But I like the simplicity of this mechanic: provide value, find solutions for people and we can all have job security even when ‘working for ourselves’. The trick, of course, is to consistently provide value and to consistently find solutions. Fail to do so and ‘the market’ will discard you.

This Friday we leave for a family trip to Denmark for one week and then my new life begins when I return. I will be chronicling this part of my story on a blog called ‘Employee 2 Entrepreneur’ to keep the focus of my other sites running-focused. I want to write about this transition because I feel all my coaching and experiences in relation to providing coaching are linked – it’s about empowerment and self-fulfilment. When I chose my Bachelor’s Degree, I did so on the basis of a financial calculation and the same logic took hold when I choose my MsC degree. In both cases I discarded personal passion in favour of money. I have no regrets: I would not have my current life – including my strong young son and all-round nice existence in the Wicklow Mountains, if I had not made these ‘mistakes’.

But as the years passed, I felt I needed to do something more vocational. I was no longer the same person who registered for Business College. The office environment didn’t agree with my health or sentiment anymore and I would catch myself looking out the window and thinking ‘do you want to spend almost a third of your life looking out at the real world from behind a glass window and see it go by?’ Once that thought took root there was no going back. Incidentally it all started when a co-worker told me to read Tim Ferris’ the ‘4-hour work week’. Ironically, I never worked more in my life than after reading that book – free time as a concept ceased to exist as hours after work had to be filled up with planning and working on a new existence. Over the years I learnt to balance that better but I also learnt that the real dream behind the ‘4-hour work week’ is not the ‘4 hours’ but rather Tim Ferris’ statement that the true riches in the modern world are: mobility, time and money. We all need the latter but without the other two they are worthless. I am not really interested in a ‘4-hour work week’ but rather the old adage to ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life’.
I have a clear idea of the changes I want to see in the world – most are currently focused around running and physical health but as I get older I hope to progress onwards to some other things which relate naturally to that. But you cannot do everything at once. And, in coaching the '4-hour rule' just doesn't work because it is a field where you can only truly excel if you give it everything.

So as a final word in this little entry: if you are interested in following the ‘business’ and ‘personal’ side of my work – rather than the running and sports-specific part, then keep an eye on the ‘Employee toEntrepreneur Blog’ - although the site is not entirely finished yet so bear with me until then - I will talk about all my personal experiences and opinions on entrepreneurship and especially as it relates to a coaching business. Who knows – it may be a short journey but not if I have my way. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

'RACE': Croghanmoira Chase

The time for our Club Summer Party in Glendalough AC came up. I had planed a busy week for myself as I hoped to do the Roundwood 7.2 km trail run on Thursday and Arthur's Mile in Rathdrum on Friday before hosting an informal Club Hill Running Championship on a 'Surprise Course' Friday.

Unfortunately, Aoife's work called here away to Geneva those days meaning it was 'all dad, no running' time. So Saturday morning I was looking forward to blow off some steam. I had picked Croghanmoira mountain (a 667 m pyramid peak towering over the Drumgoff Gap) - an old favourite of mine from the Aughavannagh race in 2007. I remembered it as a 'mini-Snowdon' with steep gradients and a nice rocky descent.

We had planned to meet in Lynham's at 12 Noon to car pool to the 'unknown destination' and a few eye-brows were raised at the assuming peak as we parked at the Drumgoff Gap for the start. Looks are deceptive here - although the climb is tough and steep, you hit the large trig point after a mere 1.7 km. Our club members had a barbecue to be back for and from a coaching perspective I prefer shorter races for events like this as you can shrug them off very quickly. This proved true this time as well - although many gave the race a good lash, after 5 minutes , you almost feel like you could go right back up again. In Wicklow, we have thankfully retained the tradition of having many races in the 2 mile to 5 km bracket across the year - meaning people can race more without it interfering too much with training.

New club man Torben Dahl as well as Amidou were the natural favourites and it made for a nice showdown between the 'Lap of the Gap' and the 'Glen to Glen' champions. 'We're going by IHRA rules - no markers and first man home takes the time,' we dumped a stop-watch at the start point in a water-proof case with a pen, 'only one rule - you go to the top of the peak, touch the trig and go home. Whichever way you want'. With no cloud cover, the trig point itself could easily be seen from the road-side.

Since I knew the route I decided to take off in the lead and quickly realised I had forgotten to take off my t-shirt (I was wearing the club singlet naturally) so ditched it in the heather just as Torben passed me out and asked ' is the route easy to follow'. As it proves it's dead-easy - with noticeable trail all the way to the top. About a kilometre in the climb flattens a bit before the very steep final climb - at this point Amidou passed me as well and gave chase to Torben. They connected and I could see a tight battle would be on. There's two parallel paths back from the summit once you turn - a slipper grassier path and the rockier rougher path. Amidou and Torben flew down the rocks whereas I gambled on the grassy path as it turn right back towards the start a little bit earlier. On the day it proved a poor choice as the rocks were drier and quicker - Amidou took advantage and had the lead before the end of the rocks. From the distance to Torben I knew I wasn't going to catch them so just focused on keeping best possible effort. 'Swoop' and my shoe got stuck in some mud and pulled right off. I turned back, pulled it out of the goo and decided it would take me too long to put it back on, so finished the last 800m with a shoe on the left and a sock on the right. Thankfully this was on a mainly grassy section and apart from a few near-misses where the sock slid under me, I cruised home to the waiting pair of Amidou and Torben who had both broken the 18 minute barrier with 17:34 and 17:55. Amidou held on for the win despite taking a skid on his rear on the rocks.

As I turned around the others were arriving (results below) including Catherine Devitt who had run-walked the route with her dog on a leash after injuring herself recently in a bike crash. It had been a tough week of racing for many of our our athletes: Rachel Wisdom and Claire finished 1st and 2nd at the Roundwood 7.2 km trail race and Donna, Colm and Bruce did the Brockagh race AND the Roundwood double - so rest was well-deserved as the party proceedings started in the Glendalough Hotel in the early afternoon.

1. Amidou Dembele 17:34
2. Torben Dahl 17:55
3. Rene Borg 19:13
4. Derek Cullen 20:19
5. Marcus Murphy 20:40
6. Rachel Wisdom 21:22
7. Yvonne Brennan 22:08
8. Colm Kenna 22:36
9. Catherine Devitt 22:56
10. Claire O'Callaghan 23:04
11. Donna Quinn 23:28
12. Bruce Philips 24:02
13. Sorcha Griffith 24:27

These short races have always fascinated me since reading of the Guides Races in England (I had the pleasure of watching Ambleside twice while - ironically myself opting to do the longer Fairfield Horseshoe race). Most are 2 miles - the same length more or less as our Croghanmoira Chase which can now join the traditional IMRA HellFire Flicker, Sugarloaf Rush and Bray Dash on the list of what I like to call 'middle distance hill running' races.

The challenge with reviving them in a more official capacity is that the large fields that hill running now attracts doesn't support it and many consider it inefficient to drive a noticeable distance for a short race - so until circumstances changes these races will likely happen more often as they did this Saturday - as an informal club race with a small field.

Details of route here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

REVIEW: VivoBarefoot Primus Review

I have uploaded a video showing my recent 'pre'-review of the new VivoBarefoot Primus and Primus Trail shoes. They are the most pleasant to wear yet and generally a step in the right direction.

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