An experiment of one

As I’ve restarted my long runs with some passion I’ve started to notice the people that run in and around my neighbourhood.  On the modest stretch of pavement I run along I’ve realised that many of them are pretty high level performers (apart from my own amazing feats obvs!). In the last few weeks I’ve seen a world champion, an olympian, two national 24 hr champions and an international masters marathon champion.  And they’re just the ones I recognise.

For anyone who isn’t from Cork they might wonder how you could have such an abundance of talent in such a small area and that’s understandable – you’ve not from Cork.

Y’know the slogan on a Coca-Cola bottle “Coke is great”? Well that originally comes from the the slogan “Cork is great”.

I was out for a 2 hour run recently when I took up with some of the local 24 hour elites and while I can hold my own with them for an hour or so anything longer is a bit of a push. One of the things you notice from chatting to elites is that they experience the exact same things as the mortals; the same injuries, the same fears and anxieties during a race; the same food concerns; the same elation.  They also keep it simple. Do what works, don’t get too complicated, stick to your guns.




Extracurricular Endurance

After 3 months of being stranded on the mudflats of demotivation and injury recovery my running is back on an upward curve. After a long event my mental motivation goes on a sabbatical and I end up finding very elaborate existential arguments to keep all my runs below 10km (i.e. what’s the f***ing point?) I didn’t mind so much this time as I was working my way through a painful hip – old man hobble sort of thing -.

I am now in the head space where anything below 10 miles seems like a waste and if given the time I would happily run for 3 hours (I’m not given the time obvs).

As I was waiting to have my motivation boat refloated I nipped off to Italy in early October and picked up a 30 year old enduro motorbike.  I drove it 1,400km from Milan to Roscoff in 2 days. The kickstand broke after 200km (hence the “resting against trees” photographs).




What does this two wheeled madness and long distance running have in common? – The essence of endurance – the ability to exist in the immediate moment for a long time and withstand physical discomfort (8 layers of clothing).


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2016 Tralee 100km Ultra Marathon

I had a detailed version of this report typed up for the past couple of weeks but I’ve decided not to publish it. It was full of the usual questioning my sanity narrative that goes with most of my running reports.


At the time of writing this blog post I’ve been in regular email contact with the organisers of the event about a problem with the posted results. This has left a sour taste in my mouth and despite grabbing a PB by 48 minutes and finishing in 11hrs 18 minutes I cannot look back on this race and recommend it to anyone who expects the fair play that a sport like Ultra running requires given the incredible personal commitment by the participants.


I finished 10th (8th male) but through a combination of poor race organisation/marshalling and what I guess can be put down benevolently as human error I am listed as finishing 12th. Two competitors behind me on the road took a short-cut (a bit of a misnomer when you’ve run over 95km!) and are listed as finishing in 10th and 11th. I know two places doesn’t seem like much but when you make a commitment to a race like this proper placing is the least you can expect.


Let me explain. The last 5km or so of the race involves a small circular loop out towards Dingle and around the back of Blennerville. As I entered this loop I could count the runners coming towards me and we all cheered each other on. I knew who was in front of me and my first time crew of wife, kids and father-in-law were chatting to the crew of the woman immediately in front of me (she had cruised past me at around  the 70km mark). As I completed the loop and made my final chest-out-ignore-the-pain run for the line I met my wife and collected my kids for the dash to the line. My wife shouted after me that two runners had come through between me and the woman in front of me. She had never seen them on the road on the last 5km of the Blennerville loop. At that point in an ultra marathon you are having trouble with anything more cognitively challenging that putting one foot in front of the other so I can safely say that that comment didn’t really sink in.

At the behest of my wife I mentioned something to the race organiser (the director wasn’t at the finish) and they said they thought the results were all fine.

As the blood flow returned to my brain the niggle started. The next day I was up early for a weeks holidays so I decided to push it to the back of my mind and pick it up again once we were back in Ireland.

When I did get around to considering whether I had been cheated out of my rightful finishing place I had to consider a few things: I have serious doubts that anyone would maliciously take a shortcut in a 100km race, especially towards the very end. But on the other hand there was a fairly comprehensive race briefing that went along the lines of “it’s your responsibility to know the course and if you take a wrong turn you are allowed be given a lift back to the point where you went wrong but you must re-commence from that point”.  Secondly, what evidence did I have apart from personal testimony?


So, I set about cataloging my experience of when I passed the two runners who had finished in front of me and who I had met on the last 5km loop. Of the two runners, one had never passed me and I had passed the other at the 80km mark in Fenit. I had met and saluted both during the out-and-back to the tip of Fenit harbour. Apart from that I had the testimony of my wife and kids. Much as I know she can barely tolerate my running she would never lie to me about this sort of thing so I had no reason to doubt her.

The final piece of evidence I had to prove that I had not taken leave of my sense was the electronic breadcrumb signature that the live GPS units we were all issued with the day before the race had produced. This breadcrumb trail showed the mapped route and the route taken by the runners. Of the two runners who had bypassed the Blennerville Loop  only one was wearing the GPS unit. It was pretty clear that he had gotten lost before the last loop and rather than complete it he had headed for home. To be fair to the competitor, there was no race marshall at that point on the course.

Armed with all this evidence I set out my case in an email to the race organiser (Marcus Howlett) in mid-August. By the start of September he acknowledged the problem and promised to have the results changed the next day.

And here I am 6 weeks later writing this outraged consumer story.

No change to the results.

I swapped a few more emails but nothing has changed on the race results page.

I’d like to be able to tell you in my next blog post that all has been resolved but given the delay in this I doubt it.

My advice to anyone seeking to enter this race is  that with adequate training you’ll score a pretty good time as the route is favourable with any real climbing in the first 50km. But if you want to rely on the race organisers for anything more that collecting your money and firing the starting gun then I’d steer clear.

Rubbisher Runner

For the one or two souls out there still waiting for a race report on the Tralee 100km (4 weeks ago now) I promise you one is on the way. And I promise to make it as short as possible and to have some photographs in it.

Today’s post is to update you on my running (or lack thereof) and what I’ll do to recover from my injury.

My running afflictions are mirroring those of an Austrian runner hiding in the mountains of Kerry. Obviously this is because we are both elites at the height of our game and not delusional middle aged men. First off I had my brush with insomnia over the summer where I started to enjoy waking at 05:00 for a run. Thankfully that is now over and the darkening mornings have made sure my serotonin levels keep me in the land of nod.

Following on from the insomnia problem I’ve now developing a persistent, almost chronic pain in my left leg that only goes away with walking (but not running). I think it is a result of a tight structure in the hip/pelvis/spine that plagued me a few years ago. The compensation on the right side expresses itself in an acutely tight hamstring during exercise (running). My best guess is that the ultramarathon saw the gap between my mental ability to keep pushing and suffering and my body’s ability to keep up open up and in crept an injury.

The  solution to the problem is obvious. Stretch, a bit of physio manipulation and rebuild the running. Like all idiots I have ignored this solution until now but last night I could barely sleep with the pain and even I know that that is not a good sign. So, I’ll start a few weeks of stretching in the space where you’re supposed to be kneeling and praying and cut back the mileage. If I’m still crocked it’s time to get the physio to work his magic.



Ultra recovery

Having finished the Tralee 100km ultra about 3 weeks ago I’m in the middle of the “you know you’re not superman, right?” phase of my recovery.

I’ll up -load a race report in the next week or so but at the moment I’m trying to work out how long it will take me to recover. The way these events go (for me) is that after the first week of physical recovery I catch my second wind and believe that the race took nothing out of me. This is followed by a tempo session (fast running) which is followed soon afterwards by the transport and general workers union in my body going on a work to rule. Dog walking is ok, cycling is tolerated, anything apart from those is a down-tools moment.

So, in order to rebuild industrial relations with my legs I’m in the middle of bilateral negotiations with each leg. The right hamstring is refusing to discuss distances longer than 4 miles, the left hip is ignoring requests from management after 7 miles and to compound this my liver has submitted a formal request for a restoration of it’s full rights and privileges having been put on gardening leave during my training.

So, tight hamstring, tight hip, more wine required, less buttered coffee.

I grabbed a 48 minute PB for 100k though.

C’était un rendez-vous

The running:

There’s been a worrying development in my running which I’m putting down to the the  rising tide of middle age. Slowing down? creaky joints? bien sur but that’s not the development. No, I’ve taken to waking at 05:30 to go running. I, who love my bed nearly as much as I love my wife, children, dog and red wine am lost as to what has happened.

This is a Bubendorfic development of worrying proportions.

Apart from that, all is well and I’m due to start a long picnic on Sunday week (7th August) with the 100km Tralee Ultra at 06:00hrs. The first 50k should be fun, the next 25k will be be the slow realisation that I am fitter in my head than in my legs and the last 25k will be me promising myself that I’ll never do this again.

No change there then.

What is the title of the blog about then?

Well, we seem to live in a world of ever spiralling levels of anxiety about the impending demise of our civilisation, the culture of austerity, fear and hatred seems rooted in our consciousness. Things have never been worse, the existential gloom rules our heads.

Horseshit. We’re just not that good as a species at holding in our farts.

Some of our farts turn up as violence, some as environmental damage and some as poverty. All that’s changed is that we’ve found a way to pipe the smell of our farts up our noses through our smart phones.

40 years ago we lived in a world just as screwed up as this one. Go google the terrorist acts of the 1976. And it was all home grown. RAF, UVF, IRA, ETA, Neo-fascists.

But inside in this maelstrom life was full of the fun and adventures we love.

Take a look at this piece of cinéma-vérité from Claude Lelouch. Filmed at 05:30hrs 40 years ago this August in a single take. The soundtrack is a ferrari but the car doing the filming was a Mercedes 450 6.9l.

I could watch this all day.

The world is a beautiful place in the early dawn.


Summer Plans

Every year we normally get off the Island in late June/early July and that puts a full stop to any running plans for the rest of the summer.

The combined medication of southern european sun, low priced alcohol and no access to work e-mail are enough to prevent my latent masochistic streak from forcing me into 20 mile runs when on holidays.

The problem with this summer hiatus is that I normally miss some opportunities to fill in the middle of the year blank in my running schedule. (Schedule = one or two long races and lots of random running).

So this year I’ve split up my holidays into a week moping about the house and a week in Italy in August. The moping is made up of being the designated parent for the kids, watching the Tour de France on the box, failing at DIY around the house (repairing the window mechanism on a vintage car rather than doing the garden/painting the bedrooms), dog walking and of course, running.

With no work to get in the way the main benefit to the running is that the mid-week runs can be stretched to 10 – 15 miles. Not earth shattering but enough for my frame.

The plan is to enter the Tralee 100k race in early August with the intention of enjoying the race and just getting around. This sort of low expectation is a fair reflection of how I expect my fitness to be by early August and how much I’m willing to commit to the race. The distance requires me to change my diet (swapping from carbs to fats) and dealing with a tight pelvis and sore left leg. Both of these have the ability to send me well off-course. Those variables plus a 5 week training plan which will top out with a longest run of 3.5 hours (about 23 miles) make me think that anything more ambitious is foolish.

Roll on August.