DIARY: Laurel and “hardy” in the hills

Jason joined me down in Glendalough today for a day of mixed work and play. We had a cup of tea before doing a lengthy drill session together and then some filming and video analysis. We had two clients coming down later and some planning to do with the rest of the CE team later, so an early run was our best and only option:

A weekend with Cerutty

“It’d be great to have a weekend camp like Cerutty’s every weekend, wouldn’t it” Jason commented. He’s right: bringing together a group of like-minded individuals in a natural location who embrace the same coaching philosophy is a powerful catalyst to do more and do things better than you would on your own.

Then we went off for the planned route: first up the Pink Road from Glendalough onto he Wicklow Way before leaving the way-marked trail for the large loop that leads to the spectacular cliff-face of Prezen Rock. The run consists mainly of rocky fire-road, but stays varied and interesting, especially with long spells of tough climbing and blistering descents.

Shirtless in January

We got in touch with nature as the heat meant that not only did we find ourselves running shirtless in January but Jason had to sip some water from the local streams. Coming off the highest point, we focused all our energy on good technique on the downhill. As it flattened I looked at the watch and saw we’d covered 930m at 2:59min/km pace. Even slowing down to a gentle jog we covered he kilometre in 3:17min/km. This was my fastest descending in he VivoBarefoot Breathos so far and bodes well for what’s coming up. “That’s 10k race pace,” said Jason. “Not quite yet,” I thought, “but it should be…”

Dodging a few dogs and hikers we ran back towards the Upper Lake car park. Getting impatient with the zig-zags, Jason said, “let’s crab down this rough stuff”. A bit of mixed running and quadruped down through muddy ground, leaves, broken branches and trees and we stood in front of a big jump across a ditch and onto the path. “That’s a bit out of my comfort zone,” I remarked. Then Jason braced himself and landed elegantly into a deep squat as we had been taught!

Rough tarmac and barefoot? Why not!

Back in the car park Jason complained of a cut over his big toe and blamed me for encouraging him to run sockless. He went for the easy solution- take the shoes off. A bit of gravel later and we were on smooth tarmac and grass. “You might want to take them back on, this bit of tarmac is incredibly rough”.

“Better than the pain from the cut”, he said. “How pleasant is that,” I asked later. “I’m thinking of clouds and pillows”, he said, “It’s not working”. We had 1300m to the house to run on this road, so I decided to be a good pal and take off my shoes and share in the challenge. It was, indeed, not what you’d classify as a “smooth ride” but it was manageable. “This puts Tony’s barefoot run up and down Camaderry in perspective” I said! Coming onto Kevin’s Way and the rocky laneway to my house, things got even more interesting for the feet but my form only broke down completely as I hit the gravel in the yard. That’s the limit then!

Thursday night reminiscing

It reminded me off our medium long run on the streets of Dublin on Thursday night.After about 50 minutes Jason mentioned his ankle was a bit tight. “Take of your shoes”, I said.

We were in the Stillorgan Heath now – a great place to practice barefoot on tarmac. I took of mine too and put them below my elbows as I’m want to do when “the urge grips me” or my shoes are making me too stiff. “It’ll soften you up,” I said. He laughed: “It’s just so counter-intuitive isn’t it". We continued this way until we got back to the office. “Do you have a weighted bar in your car”, I asked him? “No, I left it”.

“Ok, I’d like to put some weight through those legs, as in the story Tony told”. Since we’d both experienced a bit of lower leg tension, we knew a poor movement pattern was trying to “sneak  in”. The worst thing to do is get into your car and go home on the couch and let it fester. Instead, we got out the weighted bars and did a long series of squats, hip-pumps, toe spreads, rhythmic jumps and over-head bar squats – putting the good movement straight back in there and letting the brain know that “we’re ok to put weight through this joint”.

The lesson of these two days:

What these two days reminded me off is how hard it is to live the “old school principles” on your own – it is much easier when you surround yourself regularly with like-minded company. Not a day goes by where you will not be offered a “magic pill” or people will tell you that you are crazy, misguided. Or they will instil fear in you with all sorts of concerned. Just imagine what a physio would have said to Jason as we ran. Would it have been “take off your shoes” or “grab a weighted bar” – no, very likely not. But even when you have incontrovertible proof that your path is the correct one, these influences can shake the belief of most people. We respond to authority, most are brought up to do so, by having other “old school” runner around us, we can stay positively reinforced in our methods and always have encouragement and a helping hand available when we encounter challenges.


Plenty of running then this week after a difficult December with stomach poisoning, plenty of stress, lots of travelling, bad food and a bout of short and intense flu. The social events we do together as a CE team and with our athletes are the highlights of any week and something we’ll do a lot to expand in 2013.