This will probably be my penultimate post before my race on the 30th May in Italy (race is an ultra running term for a long picnic).

Since I had my special moment with the bats (check out the last post) I’ve had a reasonably decent run of things on the training front. I did go through a bit of a crisis that I’d peaked too early with my races in early April but as an american would say I got my shit together and got with the programme.

I’ve had a fat adapted long run every week in every type of weather possible from mickey shrinking freezing horizontal rain to sweaty arse crack summer weather which if it does nothing else it builds mental strength. For someone like me with varying levels of commitment to my cobbled together training plans the ability to haul my ass out of bed on the weekend and to head out the door for 20+ miles is an achievement in itself.

I’ve been able to knock out 7 – 15 mile runs with hills in between my LSRs  so my aerobic fittness is in decent shape as well.

If I think back to my post at the start of the training cycle about trying to develop areas of training that are not just running I think things have gone as well as I could have expected.

The whole idea of the training is to make sure that you can make it to the 60% stage of the race without feeling like a dog’s dinner (a dog’s dinner is where you have a full, sloshy stomach, no appetite, no energy, no sense of humour and heavy legs). If you can do this then you will do yourself justice and if not enjoy the experience then at least have good memories of it.

Barring some catastrophe in the next 9 days I should make it to the starting line without any injury – that’s more than I can say for last year. I’ve learned to run in the heat which, while it will make little or no difference in the early Tuscan summer, will at least stop me panicking over the first 40km of the race. I’ve lost a bit of weight – about 3kg – it’s not much but I lost it by reducing my carb intake and dropping the booze which have benefits of their own (don’t get too worried – I’ll be back on both of them about 10 minutes after the race is over).

This next bit is pure ultra running wankology:

I’ve up-regulated my fat metabolising mechanisms so that I’m able to go long on empty. Wanky, isn’t it?

Basically it means that I can run for a long distance without needing much food and the food I do need is mainly fatty and not carby – less gels and more fat. The best thing about this is that it gives a much more even energy release and there is less gastric anxiety. My plan is to keep to this ketogenic fuel source for as long as I can and to introduce carbs as I need them with some other energy from fats as well (as the old saying goes – men plan and God laughs).

The new shoes have also paid dividends and apart from their worrying lack of durability – worrying for my wallet – that they show they have done their job.

I was able to sneak in another marathon on the 9th of May. It was just down the road and at only €20 to enter it fitted the bill for a decent long run. There were only 32 runners lining up for it but we had a great send off from the World 50k walking champion (Rob Heffernan) who sent us on our way.

The run was fine – completely on empty with about 750ml of water over the full distance. I crossed the line in 3:50hrs and some seconds and collected a medal which my kids were delighted with.

What made the run really enjoyable was not having to run it on my own  – after the first two miles of resigning myself to living inside my own head for the best part of 4 hours the woman running in front of me stopped and shouted back at me: Are you going to hang back there or catch up?

I duly caught up and It took me a mile or so to work out who she was – if you click back to this post you’ll realise that she wasn’t new to the whole running scene.

I had one of the best runs of my life – sharing stories about running and life.  Think about two drunks wasting an afternoon in a pub solving the problems of the world – some wisdom but mainly bullshit. She was training for a 72 hour adventure race and if it wasn’t for the need to get back to my family after the run I’d have kept running for another few hours.

When I got home from the marathon my wife and kids gave me the look that said I was starting too many sentences with the words “Col said………”


I was out for a twilight 10 miler last week – one of those midweek runs that starts fine, gets bad and then finishes well (mainly because of food/tiredness issues).

This is my usual run where you start in suburbia, run out into the countryside to catch a few hills and then turn around and head home. The good/bad/amazing phases of these runs follow a predicable pattern; a mile of feeling like the six-million dollar man, 2 miles of feeling like you’ve put diesel in a petrol car, a full stop for a tactical wee and a breather (as I swap out the batteries) then 2 or 3 miles of a slow recovery and then feeling like the six-billion dollar man as I bounce home on my forefeet and (in my head) shaved hours off my ultra marathon PB.

I just made it back to pavements and street lights as it got dark enough for a motorist to get acquitted for dangerous driving having killed me.

The last few miles are along the old railway line in Blackrock. It’s where all the best athletes do their training (Rob Heffernan, Lizzie Lee, Jan Uzik, Me………..) and where most of the dogs do their shitting.

The railway line is unlit and it was empty and just dark enough for the dog walkers to be at home and the doggers not having made it out yet. I had the place to myself.

Everything was perfect. The air was cool, my systems were all working in harmony (probably looked like a new born giraffe to a passer-by) and all I could see in the twilight were the pipistrelle bats swooping and looping around my head.

I closed my eyes and thought – if this is as good as it gets then this training cycle has been a good one.

The next run was a 20 miler in the pouring rain on Saturday morning. I was alone for that run as well but that was more because most people (and bats) were smart enough to realise that a long run in the heavy rain is only for the stupid.

Busy week(s)

The high point of last week was winning a spot prize 50m hozelock garden hose and trolley at the kids’ school table quiz.

Just think about that for a while and consider how I have (depending on how you view things) fully embraced my middle years and have learned to enjoy life or become a sad bastard.

We came 4th in the quiz itself – we lost the tie-breaker for 3rd place by not knowing who married Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld in 1954.

On the running front I had a fully fasted 23 mile run the morning after the garden hose victory which started out shaky for the first 5 miles and then settled down. I made it to mile 20 before having a bottle of water and then made it back home in decent shape.

I’m in Brussels at the moment and had a decent enough 14 miler yesterday evening that was run in a long sleeve top in 20C heat and without any food. This (like the hose reel example) made me look like a man working on a carb depleted heat adaptation strategy or a slow middle aged man trying to kill himself.

Apart from that (on the running front) I am starting to worry that I’m making the same schoolboy error I make every year and wear out my training shoes and then end up trying to break in a new pair at the last minute.

I’ve just had a look at my work calendar for the next few weeks and (again, thinking about the hose reel example) means that I’ll have plenty of time to fit mid-week long runs in as I’ll be away most of the time or I’ve run my last long run as I won’t be allowed out the door in running shoes on weekend between now and the end of May as my significant other will ground me.

Wild Garlic

This post could easily have been called Gorse in blossom but you get the gist of it. A long winter of varying levels of motivation finally pays off when you find yourself inhaling the scent of wild garlic or gorse in blossom (the heady smell of coconut and vanilla) and you realise that spring is finally here and the aches and pains of running are, if not gone, at least under control.

A more hectic family life over the past week and wanting to give myself some time to recover from the ultra marathon meant I sacrificed my long run over the weekend. Instead I spent the weekend tracking the 24hr world championships on twitter where some familiar names were in action (Mr. Bubendorfer, Ruthann Sheehan &John O’Regan to name but 3).

The level of commitment that an event like that requires tends to put some perspective on my ambitions. Still, you can only piss with the cock you’ve got.

I did take break from long runs as an opportunity to string together 4×10 mile runs over the Thursday – Sunday period. These were over my regular 10 mile course that includes some hills. The pace didn’t fade over the 4 days (although a failure to eat on Saturday did lead to a bit of a low point at mile 3). I know 40 miles in 4 days doesn’t sound very spectacular but to put it in context it’s the first time in 2 years that I’ve been able to string together back to back moderately long runs without lower limb pain (legs in other words!) I am taking this as a sign that the bio-mechanics are in reasonable good shape compared to this time in other training cycles.

Now, with 7 weeks to go until Italy I have to work out what to do so that I don’t spoil the dish. If I turn down the heat to a moderate simmer it’s likely that I’ll lose some of the fitness I’ve developed (mainly the longer endurance) and if keep lashing into it at a rolling boil I’m bound to ruin some part of the training – any fool can over train, it’s turning up at the start line in the right shape that’s difficult (I think I read that on twitter….)

So what next? Well, I spotted a MCI marathon in Cork on 9th May that might be a handy long run to focus the next 7 weeks on. I could build up to it and taper down from it on the long runs. The other thing (time allowing) I’d like to do is to push the middle of the week runs out to 12-16 miles. In previous marathon training cycles I noticed that pushing the mid-week “tempo”run out a bit in distance pays dividends on race day. Now, my mid-week runs aren’t tempo but they will be short enough to go at a pace that is a bit quicker than ultra pace.

All of these plans come with the proviso that if it overtakes my running/life balance then I have to pull back a bit. I’m a run for fun sort of guy so all my goals are completely internal and if it starts to eat into my family time then I think I’ll reassess.

I think I’ll continue with the fat adaptation experiment as it seems to be working and from the stuff I’ve been reading I seem to have a fairly low carb diet already which is making the switch easier.

On top of that I expect that I’ll get panicked about my Hokas wearing out before race day – currently they’re sold out of my size across all my usual sources.

Running the first large chunk of the race in a fasted state is also niggling with me. The race starts at 15:00hrs and to stay fasted overnight would (I am guessing) not be wise.  My current plan is to shift my circadian rhythm over the previous few days and to sleep in until 12:00hrs on race day. This should also help with the late finish of the race.

Apart from all of that it’s just one foot in front of the other and keep on smiling.

Race Report – Vartry 50km Ultramarathon

There’s lots wrong in the world and lots right in it.

On the wrong side is the impending demise of One Direction following Zayn’s departure, the irrepressible rise of radical religions and our indifference to the ascendancy of the  incompetocracy that makes most of the big decisions for us these days.

On the positive side, or the right side, it’s the 8th of April and I’m sitting outside enjoying a warm spring sunset and as any loyal son of Hibernia will tell you there’s no place better than Ireland when the sun shines (about 5 days a year then……). The kids are on holidays so the panic of lunches, school drops and homework are suspended and you’re reading this on some sort of portable device while pretending to be working/listening to your partner/paying attention to something else – that means we’re all good and above ground.

My running is also looking worryingly promising at the moment. My default position is to be a moaning Mary when it comes to running. A mask for my inherent lack of talent and unwillingness to commit to a training regime or club that would show me up for the bluffer I am. My recent training and test racing success has seen me struggle for an excuse to hide behind. The only one I can think of is that with 8 weeks to go to my target event (calling it a race would be disingenuous) I am, like a man rapidly approaching the target demographic for erectile dysfunction products, not going to be able to keep it up for 8 more weeks.

I’ll give you the abridged version of my Vartry 50k experience in a while but before I go into that I’d like to testify to the idea that the more laid back an ultra marathon is in terms of event organisers the better it seems to go. Vartry was no different. The organisation was of the kind where if you’re turning up for this sort of thing then you’re in the big boys/girls club so don’t start whining about hills or water stops or traffic or toilets. That said, I left the event with a happy glow of knowing that we are finally getting an ultra scene together in Ireland that will save me having to run around Italy/Scotland. It looks like we will be able to have seasons of 50k spring and autumn races, with big toenail removing 100 milers in the late spring to mid-summer.

The race.

I entered it on Thursday as my last job before I signed off work for the long weekend. €40 for 50K – it seemed to be good value and it would see me reach 31 miles in a single  training run. I wanted to see how my magic coffee experiment was going to work and to see how my body would deal with two long runs in 6 days (this would see me reach 75 miles for the 7 days – a record by about 20 miles for this body).

I headed up to my sisters house in north Dublin at around 8.00pm on Friday evening (she was in Cork with my neices and nephews), I watched TV with my brother-in-law and put the world to right until around 12.30am (him on the Lithuanian beer and me on the tea) and then it was off to bed for a few hours of dreams.

I woke the next day at around 6.20am and made up a flask of magic coffee (a large cafetiere, about 25g of butter and the same of coconut oil – coconut lard more like it – all whizzed up) and set off for the race. I pulled into the campsite in Roundwood that served as the race HQ at around 8.00am and felt like a rookie. The 50 miler had been under way since 6.00am and the 100 miler had been under way since 6.00pm the previous evening. Like a first world war soldier heading to the front I was being met my by returning vets in various states of shell shock. Still, given that I’d signed up on a whim on Thursday I wasn’t under any more pressure than I wanted to put myself under.

I slurped my coffee and had the good sense to leave my box of spare gear, water and Aldi berocca tablets at the start finish point. I was running for the first time this year in short sleeves. As part of my Italian Job training I’ve been running everything in a gore-tex coat and long sleeved top so that the heat doesn’t stress me out too much. I used a camelbak hydration job for the race as well although apart from carrying a hat, my phone, my car keys and some haribo it was empty. It was more about getting used to equipment for Italy.

The start briefing was another common sense job – have some fun and don’t be stupid and we were off. These events usually attract one or two souls who can do a 50k in around 3:00-3:30hrs and this one was no different. There were a bunch of them haring off up the road within two miles of the start.

The course was run over a 10 mile triangular course with an out and back leg on the last side of the triangle to make the distance right. The out and back leg was longer for the 50k racers than the 50/100 mile folks as we had to make it up over 31 miles to meet our 50k target.

The course seemed to have no hills on the first loop, some gentle ones on the second loop and some mount Everests on the final loop. I don’t want to think what it was like on the 8th, 9th or 10th loops. If you’re a non-runner you might be wondering how someone can run 50k let alone 50 miles or 100 miles. All I can say is that almost all of the 50k crew had the same thoughts as you. The 50 milers looked to be suffering as we passed some of them on our first lap. The 100 milers had long since passed through the gates of reality and were now stranded in a Godot like purgatory of unending comical suffering. They may have been beside us on the road but they were alive in another dimension, as unable to explain their pursuit of their goal as we were of comprehending it.

Lap one ticked over in 1:29hrs for just over 10 miles. My gut instinct was that this was too fast for a 50k and that I would be in for a pretty spectacular fade in laps 2 and 3. As I went under the timing arch I grabbed a mouthful of water and my sunglasses and hit the road again for the second lap.

As the second loop started the field had thinned out and I found myself happy to run along in my own company. The sun was up now and when the biting wind wasn’t trying to go through you rather than around you you could feel the sweat build up around the back of your neck on some of the long gradual climbs. This lonely running is great  when you can empty your mind and just associate with the task.

Around mile 12 or 13 I happened upon a 100 mile competitor who was on mile 82 or 83. Liam Costello. A man who shouldn’t be allowed near running shoes or mountains the way a heroin addict shouldn’t be allowed near tinfoil and a lighter. I stopped to walk with him for about 5  minutes and he explained the surreal suffering he had experienced and was still to endure (he was running the race completely unsupported). God help me but I found the concept of enduring the mental suffering almost too enticing.  He said he was going to walk the 9th lap completely and see how he felt for his final lap. I wished him luck and ran on.

The rest of lap 2 was fairly uneventful although I did have a quick chat with a girl on  a road bike who was very  friendly (she seemed to be crewing for someone) and had a physique that made me want to take up following ladies cycling. I saw her a few more times and had to hold back on telling her how nice I thought she looked. This was probably for the best as may lack of fashion sense made me look less like the rugged ultra runner my mind’s eye imagined and more like a cross between a tramp and a man who exposed himself to strangers. This lap went by in 1:32hrs and after the race I thought that it was (excluding the chat with Liam) a negative split on the first lap.

serious look, should've shaved.....and worn normal shorts

serious look, should’ve shaved…..and worn normal shorts

As lap 2 finished and lap 3 started I dropped an Aldi berocca into a bottle of water and headed out again. The hills were a bit harder now but nothing that needed a walk. At the end of the first leg of the triangle there was a sharp turn with a steep 50m rise (around mile 22 or 23) and I took this as an opportunity to drink down my Aldi berocca water. The electrolytes did their trick and I felt fine to keep motoring on. At about mile 25 I grabbed a few small bottles of water as an insurance policy against running out of fuel. My plan was to use them to wash down some haribo somewhere around mile 27 or 28 so I didn’t suffer any sort of a fade.

The full marathon clocked by in 3:49hrs which, for a training run, seemed to be pretty good (for me). At this point I had a bit of a battle on my hands with the first lady on the 50k course. As I power walked my haribo at mile 28 I reconciled myself to letting her away from me (the haribo were useless by the way – giving me a sloshing stomach) and focused on my steady performance to that point.

My constant training on hills was standing to me on this course (on the up-hills – I was like a car with the hand brake on on the downhills) and as I pushed on I found myself reeling in the first lady.

By mile 29 it was more or less over so I just opened up my stride and drove on for the finish. I’d vaguely entertained a 4:30hrs finish but my inability to calculate the distance meant I gave up on this as soon as I started entertaining it. With about half a mile to go I met Liam starting out on his 10th and last lap. Like a desperate junkie he was looking for pills for his knees and all I could offer him was haribo and water. I stayed chatting to him for a few minutes and told him I had to go as I didn’t want to get chicked.

I did the eventual sprint for the line over the last 400m and crossed the timing mat in 4hrs 35 mins and 19 seconds.

I placed 7th out of 52 finishers.

Be honest, do I have gay wrists?

Be honest, do I have gay wrists?

The steady pace and lack of food were the two things that I was happiest with over the whole race. My pace isn’t fantastic but then I haven’t been doing any speed work so that’s fine.

welcoming the first lady home in the 50k. The moment where you both admit you were racing each other.

welcoming the first lady home in the 50k. The moment where you both admit you were racing each other.




Chatting after the race with the 3rd man home in the 50 miler (Mike O'Sullivan). I need to buy new shorts.

Chatting after the race with the 3rd man home in the 50 miler (Mike O’Sullivan). I need to buy new shorts.











Place Bib Event Surname Name Sex Lap 1 Lap 2 Lap 3 Finish
1 214 50km Byrne Gavin MALE 1:10:22 1:12:40 1:11:12 3:34:14
2 218 50km McGrath Ian MALE 1:12:47 1:13:00 1:16:00 3:41:47
3 248 50km Vala Dipak MALE 1:20:46 1:19:19 1:28:42 4:08:48
4 245 50km Doyle Sean MALE 1:21:32 1:22:30 1:29:43 4:13:45
5 227 50km Redmond Mark MALE 1:23:07 1:24:58 1:26:54 4:14:59
6 202 50km Brennan Stephen MALE 1:23:20 1:28:36 1:38:13 4:30:09
7 234 50km Cronin Richard MALE 1:29:14 1:32:01 1:34:04 4:35:19
8 233 50km Reid Caroline FEMALE 1:27:29 1:30:50 1:39:15 4:37:34
9 225 50km Carr Noel MALE 1:34:05 1:33:41 1:31:43 4:39:30
10 213 50km Chapman John MALE 1:24:39 1:30:09 1:47:00 4:41:48
11 216 50km senyk ash MALE 1:32:40 1:25:29 1:45:07 4:43:16
12 203 50km fintan lawlor MALE 1:26:12 1:35:16 1:42:12 4:43:40
13 237 50km Chapman Marie FEMALE 1:37:20 1:36:16 1:33:15 4:46:51
14 223 50km Malone Mark MALE 1:34:06 1:39:33 1:40:32 4:54:11
15 220 50km Lundy Leo MALE 1:31:57 1:35:00 1:48:09 4:55:07
16 211 50km mcintyre peter MALE 1:40:24 1:46:14 1:37:37 5:04:15
17 247 50km Misteil Ronan MALE 1:23:06 1:38:50 2:03:45 5:05:41
18 222 50km Mynes Ronan MALE 1:34:05 1:39:40 1:54:51 5:08:36
19 253 50km Haydon Michael MALE 1:39:20 1:37:12 1:52:16 5:08:47
20 226 50km Garvey Neil MALE 1:34:06 1:40:20 1:55:04 5:09:30
21 217 50km McGroarty Neville MALE 1:38:37 1:44:57 1:48:33 5:12:07
22 230 50km Galvin Catherine FEMALE 1:39:26 1:42:02 1:50:39 5:12:07
23 252 50km raffetry luke MALE 1:40:13 1:45:28 1:58:07 5:23:48
24 250 50km french declan MALE 1:32:01 1:45:30 2:07:16 5:24:48
25 219 50km Ryan Kristy FEMALE 1:30:22 1:44:48 2:11:48 5:26:59
26 221 50km o’daly gary MALE 1:37:52 1:51:03 1:58:04 5:26:59
27 239 50km Hay Jonathan MALE 1:40:59 1:44:43 2:02:17 5:27:59
28 228 50km Heppenstall Lindsey FEMALE 1:41:10 1:52:34 1:55:53 5:29:36
29 229 50km O’Sullivan John MALE 1:41:00 1:49:32 2:08:52 5:39:24
30 224 50km Mackessy Derek MALE 1:44:42 1:56:38 2:00:09 5:41:29
31 215 50km Guthrie Catherine FEMALE 1:44:35 1:54:04 2:02:50 5:41:29
32 201 50km Phelan Darren MALE 1:40:35 1:45:55 0:13:17 5:42:32
33 205 50km daly paul MALE 1:39:57 1:56:16 2:06:39 5:42:52
34 210 50km Meehan Andrew MALE 1:40:23 1:48:47 2:17:41 5:46:51
35 206 50km McCarthy James MALE 1:15:50 1:59:27 2:33:13 5:48:31
36 244 50km Ryan Eoin MALE 1:37:59 1:47:41 2:26:08 5:51:48
37 240 50km Margelino Paulo MALE 1:50:26 1:54:22 2:07:13 5:52:01
38 204 50km iryna kennedy FEMALE 1:45:39 2:07:32 2:07:46 6:00:57
39 238 50km Molloy Jean FEMALE 1:45:17 2:03:13 2:22:16 6:10:46
40 241 50km Wall John MALE 1:41:05 2:06:54 2:32:12 6:20:10
41 243 50km Brady Ken MALE 1:41:07 2:06:56 2:32:07 6:20:10
42 242 50km Reid Shane MALE 1:40:58 2:07:21 2:31:51 6:20:10
43 231 50km Neill Anthony MALE 1:52:44 2:13:02 2:18:32 6:24:18
44 232 50km Tierney Nicola FEMALE 1:52:45 2:13:01 2:18:32 6:24:18
45 246 50km brady dave MALE 1:53:39 2:08:30 2:24:07 6:26:16
46 251 50km waters jason MALE 1:44:31 2:07:33 2:37:25 6:29:29
47 249 50km Sludds Barbara FEMALE 1:59:24 2:05:56 2:25:00 6:30:20
48 236 50km Larkin Ann marie FEMALE 1:38:04 2:13:04 2:51:52 6:43:00
49 200 50km Neill Skelton MALE 1:49:39 2:22:34 2:32:49 6:45:02
50 208 50km 6am O’Hagan Collette FEMALE 2:09:24 2:24:17 2:39:12 7:12:53
51 209 50km 6am dornan seamus MALE 2:09:54 2:23:43 2:39:17 7:12:54
52 207 50km 6am Madden Carol FEMALE 2:33:08 2:35:21 2:34:04 7:42:33

After the race it was a case of scoffing down some crisps and rocky road with a cup of tea, a squirt of deodorant and into the car for the trip home and back to dog-walking and chilling with the kids by 6:00pm.

Hopefully this won’t be the apex of my running year, but if it is, I can’t complain.






Race Report Slievenamuck Marathon

My training has reached a stage where the long runs are as much a test of my boredom threshold as they are of endurance. There are only so many ways to run 22 miles.

To counteract the boredom  I’ve embarked on a few races recently to make the running more interesting. This is one of two reports in quick succession to fill you in on these less boring long runs.

Performance in these races wasn’t so much about pace but more about seeing where we are on a whole load of other things. Has the dog walking done any good? Am I fat adapted? Do press-ups make any difference?

I picked the Slivenamuck marathon on the basis that it cost €10.00 to enter and was a “turn up, pay your money and run” sort of event that attracted about 50% runners and 50% walkers.

The only negatives to the race were that it was held on Palm Sunday (the clocks were adjusted meaning that I had one less hour in the scratcher) and that it was a trail marathon. Still, at €10 and only an hour from my front door I couldn’t pass it up.

The course is a figure of eight that starts and finishes in the middle of the 8 and runs across the slievenamuck mountain ridge and offers great views of the Glen of Aherlow and the Galtees. The race is organised by the Galtee walking club and in a score out of 10 for course marking these guys would get an 11. They get 100 two gallon bucket lids and mark them with big black arrows and put them out all over the course. Idiot proof and reliable – just what I needed.

The main aim of this run was to see how my bulletproof coffee/fat adapted approach to long runs was going and to see how long I could go before I thought I might need some additional fuel.

The race kicked off at 09:00-ish and was one of those “have fun and don’t forget your common sense” race briefings and off we went.


Miserable and cold looking? Check!








The route (on the map) was one where it looked pretty flat – once you’re on the ridge it seemed to just follow the contours. As I plunged down a steep hill in the first mile I realised that I may have misjudged the elevation gain/loss of this race. A review of the Garmin at the end showed about 1,100m of climb/drop over the whole marathon distance.The start, approximate half way and finish were all at the same point so there was no overall gain but the pain in my upper quads at the end of the race attested to the climbing.

Don't get lost, have fun

Don’t get lost, have fun

In my head I broke the race down into two parts – the first 20 miles and then on to the finish. This was mainly based on my running on fat approach and I felt confident that I could make 20 miles on the magic coffee and after than it would be a case of sucking and seeing.

The first 13 mile loop was one where I couldn’t really find my stride. I found myself racing against some of the half-marathoners and my complete lack of trail running in nearly 18 months was becoming very apparent as I struggled with the terrain.

As the half way point came around and some of the full marathoners stopped at their cars to refuel or change gear and the half marathoners high fived each other I found myself alone and happy at last to find my own pace. I did reflect that I seemed to have turned into one of those linear functioning aspergery types who can’t make small talk during a race but on reflection I think this was more because I didn’t consider it to be a race and so was quite happy to slip back into my own world.

My pace was checked by the strong westerly wind, the climbing and the slippery conditions (street shoes) so even though I was on my own it was more because of the uninterrupted plodding rather than speed of any sort.

Miles 13 to 18 went by with no surprises and I found myself on my own for all of it. There was a period of a few minutes where I was in visual contact with  one or two others but, as I found out at the end, they faded back due to a fall (leading woman) and cramp.

Miles 18 – 22 took the race off the hills, down through a farm and down towards the Aherlow river and past Moore Abbey near Galbally. I had been grabbing water as I went until this point and as the riverside section of the race ended and an almost vertical climb back up the hill commenced I had a spectacularly slow 17:30 mile. I used this hill slog to munch down some jelly beans. This was more as an insurance against a potential bonk over the last few miles than any great need for them.

At the end of the vertical climb I bumped into a half marathoner who looked lost and gave me a confusing story about running past the halfway point and not stopping. I set him on his way and followed along behind him.

Around mile 24 the relentless climbing was forcing me to walk the up hills but by this stage I felt I had achieved what I’d set out to do (push the training on over 22 miles and see how it felt on the magic coffee) so I wasn’t too worried.

From the shoe marks in front of me I had guessed that I was in 4th or 5th place in the race at this stage and hadn’t passed anyone since the half way stage (nor had I been passed) and I was happy with this sort of result.

As I power walked up past the Glen of Aherlow Lodge I saw one arrow pointing down a small lane way and  was tempted to take it as the directions had been 100% correct up to this point. As I considered this arrow I realised that it was the 1 mile marker from the start of the marathon so I decided to skip it and push on up the hill towards the finish.

The last mile was uneventful except for some sudden breaks into power walking based on being mentally finished with the race rather than exhaustion and I crossed the line in 4hrs 19 mins.

Then came the biggest surprise of my running career to date: I called into the tent to collect my completion cert and the nice lady from the Galtee Hill Walkers looked up at me and smiled and said – you came second.

I was quite chuffed with this but was a bit puzzled about this because I had guessed that there were 4 or 5 in front  of me. As I ate my slice of finishers cake it all became clear. My podium finish was less due to being the second fastest person over the course but rather by being able to stick to the course. About 2 or 3 of the people in front of me had taken the wrong turn at mile 25 and came in with an extra mile or two under their belts.

All in all it was a good day out. The race had helped me notch the long run up as far as the marathonand over 4 hours and it tested the magic coffee over the distance – it performed well even if I did fall back on some jelly beans out of fear of a bonk.

I made it back home, got a bit of a shrug from my wife, got the puzzled look from my kids as I didn’t have a silver medal (my prize was a copy of the route map) and was back on dad duty in no time.

There was no real recovery to talk of – I up for work at 04:30 the next day and was back running on the following Tuesday  – a 1 day break.

I was happy with this resilience and took it as a positive sign.

I have two main anxieties now before my late May appointment with the mountains of Tuscany: How do I stay fat adapted for a race that starts at 15:00hrs in the afternoon and have I peaked too early with my training? Two months is a long time to keep the mind and body focused on a race that further expansion of training will only produce marginal improvements and might bring the reality of injury into focus.

Still, to bastardise L.P. Harley,the future is a foreign country, they do things differently there. 

Fat Adapted

If you’ve clicked through to here because you need a reinforced toilet, a chair lift and a mobility scooter then I think you might be in the wrong place but read on in case you need a laugh.

In my frantic search to latch onto any and every snake oil solution to making ultra marathons less of a physically demeaning day out and more of a positive experience I am currently investigating the LCHF approach to nutrition. Before I launch into explaining how my hobby is decoupling me from normal life I’ll give you a bit of  man-in-the-pub science:

If you cut out the sugar you will have to use fat to get by. If you eat fat you will force you body to burn the fat as fuel. You will become fat adapted.

Note: the words FORCE, BURN  and FUEL should be signal enough to you that this theory is both ill understood by me and the sort of faddish thing that you’d likely find in a fashion magazine.  i.e. prepare to add a large pinch of salt to everything you’re about to read.

You will hear this approach being touted around the internet, health magazines, fashion magazines and what ever you’re having yourself as the paleo diet (named after the paleolithic era where we all wore fur underpants and went ugg, ugg) or LCHF (low carb high fat) diet which is more or less the same: Stop shoving bread, pasta, cereal and sweets into your gob.

Even if a low carb diet does nothing else it can help prevent hanger – hanger is the special human condition that exists where the blood-sugar drop after an insulin spike and turns you into an irrational psychopath (hanger = hungry & angry). I know lots of people with this condition – I’m sure you do too. I see that the manufacturers of Snickers bars have actually used it in their latest marketing campaign – You’re not you when you’re hungry.

From a running (long distances) point of view the idea is that if you can exercise in ketosis (the science name for “fat burning”) you can tap a much greater reservoir of energy within your body (fats). One of the notable exponents of this approach (mainly to bring about a reduction in type II diabetes in over weight people) is Tim Noakes (if you’ve been into running for a while and like to read on the toilet then you’ll have read his book  the lore of running several time).

So what do you have to do to ascend to this level of higher conciousness? Eat butter by the spoonful? – close.

I’m not really a big eater of sweets anyway so I though I’d try out some medium to long distance runs on fat.

I rooted out a recipe for what is known as “bulletproof” coffee on the internet. Its not actually bulletproof but I think it sounds better than “fat coffee” which might be overlapping on some of the lattes on offer at my local coffee shop.

Brew some coffee, add it to a blender with a knob of butter and a spoon of coconut oil (I’ll be honest – it looks like lard). Blend the whole lot and drink. Despite what you might think it actually tastes fine – like a coffee with cream in it.

I tried this a few weeks ago on an 20 morning mile run. I had no breakfast but I did bring some chocolate bars with me in case this magic coffee thing was just another sign I was going mad and I would actually need some energy to get home.  I made it to 13 miles before I started to feel tired and stopped at 16 miles for a chocolate bar so I could make it home with my dignity in tact.

The following week I had a 10 mile mid-week run on magic coffee that went off without a problem.

Over the next few weeks I went through a few more big runs on magic coffee and replaced the chocolate bars with cheese and some water and have made it to 22 miles with no ill effects. Pace doesn’t drop off, there’s no bonk, recovery is fine.

I must admit I’m quite impressed with results – having a normal evening meal at 7pm, a full nights sleep and then a 35k+ run at 10am on a mug of coffee and a square of cheese (500 cals max) is something that I think would be something a lot of runners would like to be able to do. High energy refined sugars that runners normally use tend to lead to stomach problems over long distances.

Are there problems with living on magic coffee? I suppose that depends on whether you like food, think nutrients are essential or whether you need to lose any weight. It does suppress your appetite pretty spectacularly so if you have a nice frock you need to fit into in two weeks then email me and I’ll get you started.