DIARY: Kerry-Bound - Looking Back

This week has been exactly what the doctor ordered. My whole system has been erratic for months for months since coming back from injury and the Difene treatment. Great race performance one day, shatteringly weak training the next day, or, just as often, a weird niggle, slight fever, or similar condition blocking my training.

Let's Talk bad First
This year I haven't been able to put together much more than 10 days of good quality consistent training of the sort I wrapped up by the mega-mile last year. To get some sense of achievement I have purchased Dean Karnazes "Ultra-Marathon Man" to get out of the slightly whimpish mood that besets a runner once the niggles start raining in.

I feared the worst after the Crone Wood race. The strange chest pain could be related to what seems to be an overall weakening of my ability to race and train at high intensity. I bow out quicker in high-intensity intervals, and have felt weak at a few occasions during interval training, most notable the night I had a panic attack and went to hospital.

This problem was easy to work around in the longer races as I don't need my max gear in those (consistent 4th gear is a better strategy than employing 5th). Crone was a worry, and with the effect, I saw, I started to wonder if the weakening of the heart and cardiovascular system that can follow Difene had, in fact, occurred.

It could also be tear of an intercostal muscle, I've had this before.

Wicklow Way Trail - Rock-Bottom
Whether or not it was a cocktail of business, weight-loss, and a hard race, or the afore-mentioned heart issues, I don't know, but this Sunday I had my first experience with completely blowing up.

After about 10km of the Wicklow Way Trail, running with Cormac, Niamh, Paul, Aoife, and Maura, I started to feel sluggish. I had felt weaker than normal from the start, but not alarmingly so. My breakfast had been normal. I drank plenty, ate plenty. I've run this run on bare nothing a few times recently and clocked up respectable training times of 2:15 and 2:18.

I like to do my training runs on less fuel than during races sometimes so the body doesn't become spoiled. This is a dubious strategy and should be pursued with care. When you do long-distance training, getting plenty during your runs is really better (as you're building), especially a minimal amount of protein seems to speed up recovery time (this from the ultra-man Dean Karnazes).

Nothing helped today. At kilometre 17 I was dead. Niamh was the last runner to disappear way in front of me. I few times I grind to walking, especially on the last uphills. I couldn't catch speed going down, my legs where so stiff they wouldn't allow my usual relaxed flowing downhill stride. This was somewhat bizarre as I spend very little energy going down. But the stomach and back muscles I rely on to let gravity pull me forward where also dead.

My sore chest cavity stung with every step. We'd been well on time for a strong finish at 16km, but it took me almost an hour to run the last 6.2km! The flat 20th kilometre took me an amazing 10:52 as I half-ran/half-staggered. Eventually, I found a trod small enough to keep going to the finish, I looked straight ahead, ate up the pain, and kept repeating the same sentence over and over again in my head. The going felt so tough and heavy. Elation doesn't describe the feeling at the finish, in fact, apathy covers it much better, sick of running I went into my car drove home, and rested rested rested....

A Week of Recovery
I've had holidays for a few days, and while I had fairly big plans, some last minute cancellations meant that it ended up having a more therapeutic effect than I could have hoped. Lots of house chores, and a bit of rest and relaxation has restored my legs to something resembling pain-free.

Not a mile has been run since the Sunday torture, but this eve I finished a good sessions with weights, and news are good: I expect to do a 60-minute run in Marlay Park before embarking to Kerry with Barry and the gang for four days of adventures.

I hope to do plenty of swimming and running every day if possible. Come Monday, I will hopefully have recovered enough physically and mentally to have a real go at the training again. That craic will be plentiful during the weekend can only be considered an absolute bonus!

It is also going to represent my first opportunity to have a go at Ireland's highest peak, the mighty Munro: Carrauntoohil or Corran Tuathail.

Lying Ahead
On the horizon are very busy weekends. I hope to do a final running of the Wicklow Way Trail. I'd love to do the Ultra as a training run, as I think it would be comfortable enough if done between 5:15-6:00, but with pacing duties coming up on the 6th in Connemara, and then the Wicklow Way Trail itself, it doesn't look like such a good idea.

After the Wicklow Way Trail lies one week of recovery before the biggest test of my running career so far: Three-Peaks in Yorkshire, 39km of mountain madness.

Perhaps I'll catch a glimpse of one of the greats of fell-running: Kenny, Billy, and Joss, or earlier winner Hugh Symonds, whose book "Running High" I enjoyed, even if I find it overly long and detailed for my tastes. Or who knows perhaps the heroes of this age: Angela Mudge, Helene Diamantides, Martin Stone, or others will be out?

My friend and rival Mick Hanney will be there, and it'll be an interesting duel. Mick is clocking up impressive mileage at the moment, so I'd give him the edge for this one, but I'll do my best to catch up in the intertwining weeks.