DIARY: St. Patrick’s Day weekend 2012

I only realised late Friday afternoon that this was a Bank Holiday weekend. With this also dawned the understanding that it was a fairly important one too! Nevertheless, much as Aoife and I like the idea of the tradition, we tend to keep far away from parades, towns and cities on the day and instead just enjoy life here in the hills focusing on relaxation, good food and some great runs in the hills.

I had cheated a bit doing a gorgeous run up Scarr from the house last week, a nice climb, you have about 9.33km of mainly ascending, and I then took a slightly longer route back for a total of 19.2km, well worth checking out this gem if you like Scarr (and if you don’t: What’s wrong with you!): http://connect.garmin.com/activity/156467038

On St. Patrick’s weekend our tradition is to run the Wicklow Way Trail route. We had extra reason to celebrate as Aoife was finally back running this week after having had problems with a heel spur that came on after she knocked her foot off a rock. We did our “gentle” loop from the house onto the Green Road, towards the woollen mills, turning up right the steep zig-zags to earn the reward of one of the best views of Glendalough. Running this direction you can see straight into the valley before joining the Wicklow Way and running back home past the Poulanass waterfall.

MAF Test

On Saturday, I had arranged for Aoife and I to do a “MAF test” which means “Max Aerobic Function” test although it is likely also a bit of a play on the name of its inventor: Phil Maffetone, who’s approach to endurance training is perhaps the epitomal Lydiardism but whose writings include many innovations and a very holistic approach. The good doctor focuses on all areas of life, not just endurance which makes his writing something everyone should pour over.

The test is quite simple, you calculate a heart rate equal to 60% of your Heart Rate Reserve plus your resting heart rate and you go and run 5 miles at that heart rate. In my case this heart rate is 143 (max heart rate 198, minimum heart rate 37). If done correctly, each mile should get a little bit slower but the test will give away whether you are improving your aerobic capacity from time to time and whether your pace drops off rapidly. Since this test now forms one of the three pillars of the new underperformance/underrecovery prevention program we have built for ChampionsEverywhere, I’ll dedicate a more thorough review of it later.

Yesterday, we had a bit of fun with it anyway, running a 1 mile stretch on Kevin’s Way (you need a flat bit of running, and we don’t have much of that here!) and I joined Aoife for her test and her warmup, and then did my own cooldown, so got a good 22km in for the day. Strangely, my max aerobic function pace, so the safest pace to do longer runs at, came in at pretty much exactly the pace I will naturally settle into when I’m fresh: 4:40min/km (or 7:30min/miles). This type of running is very revitalising, so by the afternoon we were all gung-ho to go do the full Wicklow Way Trail as the Sunday long run and Amidou decided to join us.

Wicklow Way Trail

I have never had the opportunity to run the fullness of the new extended route in one setting, so being able to do it on a sunny day offered me perfect rehearsal for the race on Saturday. I always run very easily on long runs close to distance events over 10 miles, and I then cut out any hill running for the last 5-6 days before. Amidou noticed this as he kept commenting on “how fresh he felt” as we completed the course in 2:28, taking a few stops to enjoy the views.

To my surprise, I had no muscle stiffness or soreness after the run, although hunger and thirst needed to be quenched quickly in Johnnie Foxes. Along the way, it was good to see get a fresh picture of this great course. The new fire-road section is an awful bore, but I can see how it will be helpful in spreading out the field ahead of the boardwalks.

I also tested my road runners, to see if they would be suitable. Unfortunately, I was like a guy with polished skis on ice from the first step around Djouce and had to run in the heather or pitter-patter slowly not to fall on my lightly exceedingly lightly polstered behind. So the road-racers are out, its still fairly wet out there and I can’t risk losing 3-4 minutes mucking about on a section that can be run very fast and aggressively during the race without major energy expenditure. What’ll be tougher is deciding on what shoe to replace it with but at this rate I may risk the Inov-8 X-Talon 190. Decisions, decisions.

The old race only really begins at Curtlestown but with the slightly shorter road-stretch into Glencullen and my observations today, it’d be more precise to say that the race begins once you leave Crone Wood. This doesn’t mean necessarily throwing everything to the wind there (quite the contrary, it’s a chess-players race) but anyone overspent or overcooked by Crone will have no further active influence on proceedings in the race, other than hanging on grimly. Definitely a fate to avoid. This is the beginning of my hill training, a bit of a rough one by all accounts but I wanted to fit in this race in 2012. I plan to do 4-5 easy days after it, absorb it and then resume full focus on the marathon-training.

Of aspirations I have no firm ones, it has been too long since I was ran a competitive race in the hills in full form but indications so far this season are looking good, and despite the fact I have not raced in the hills for quite some time, I have done a lot of running on dunes, trails and hills so far this season, especially and am at ease climbing strongly late in 2 hour runs, so all going well I will be able to put in a performance I can be satisfied with come Saturday. The event has changed beyond recognition both in terms of numbers and route since those lofty days when I could savour the luxury of finishing 5th in 2008. Very little has gone right since, so it would lend a certain poetry to the occasion if I could banish my “mountain ghosts” there, although really, they are gone already, ever since Tony Riddle showed me why I was obsessed with my constant underperformance in the mountains. It will be strange in a way to toe the line feeling nothing but confidence about uphills, but I can’t complain about that.