The last few weeks have been work and running. Though mostly in the form of running, then work. That’s because trying to do 9 miles in the dark at night is not a whole heap of fun. So the midweek runs have meant early starts and getting the runs out of the way. These are typically anything between seven and ten mile speed repeats or tempo runs, and are certainly putting manners on me. Indeed, some of the speedier days require 6.30 minute mile pace repeats, and these I have found impossible to sustain. I’m conscious that I have dodgy hamstrings that could pop at any time, and these runs are just the ticket for doing damage. So I have dialled back a little on the top end in terms of speed. Sue me. But the bonus for all these early starts is the free wildlife viewing, such as Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kingfishers. Plus quite a few stunning sunrises on these frosty and misty morns.
Last weekend’s long run was 22 miles and rather than take to the canal, I visited some old friends. And by old friends, I mean several of Ireland’s more famous Palladian-style Georgian houses, and their associated parklands and demesnes. I hadn’t even bothered to check the pace I was supposed to be running at, so poddled along at just under 6 minutes per kilometre, when, lo and behold, I was supposed to be going a bit faster than that… Not to worry. It was a nice, albeit damp, run. My first port of call was Carton House and no run to this location is complete without tackling the hill and Tyrconnell Tower. This done, I headed past the main house and left the demesne behind to jog through Maynooth, joining up with the canal and heading for my next ‘posh house’ destination: Castletown.
Castletown House is our biggest Georgian house, and on this morning, there was a busy Christmas market in the process of being set up. Sadly, the weather was poor, and mostly what I recall from the run at this stage was having to shelter from a heavy shower in the woods in Carton, and then spending the rest of the time looking for rain showers. As I passed through Castletown, it was drizzling and rather gloomy.
On then, past the Batty Langley gate lodge and a right turn over the Liffey at Barnhall to pick up the back roads beyond Young’s Cross, and mooch past the State Labs. The road here is technically a cul-de-sac, now that they have built a link road for new developments. But it has yet to open, which means the way is barred by chain-link fencing. And as any decent Irish runner knows, chain-link fencing is actually an invitation to pass through. Or around. Or over. This I did, and I was now on Tubber Lane, from the Irish Lána an Tobair, or Lane of the Well. And indeed, there is a lively little stream that runs alongside the lane for much of its length. This watercourse finds its way into the Liffey at the boundary of my final park: my very own St. Catherine’s.
I had meant to write this up last week, and was going to title it ‘The Three Parks Run’, but, well; events, dear boy, events, as Harold Macmillan is reported to have said. And who am I to disagree?
So roll on another week, with more early starts to get those pesky runs done. 8, 9 and 7 miles, and each with its own cunning variation of speed and tempo. I was happy enough with the overall tally, and all I can do at this stage is keep sticking closely to the programme and if it all goes arse over tit, well, I just hope it does so before the race itself.
And so it transpired that I missed Saturday’s short run, but I was quite happy to do so for two reasons. Firstly, the programme said 20 miles at 8.30 minute/mile pace for Sunday, which sounded rather uncomfortable to be perfectly honest. And I was sceptical that I could even achieve it. The second, more pleasant reason I couldn’t run an easy 5 miles that day was that I had to drive down to Limerick (a two-hour journey) to pick up a guitar. We had had some snow on Thursday, followed by sub-zero temperatures that have not lifted yet, with freezing fog and icy roads. So I was glad to make it there and back in one piece with my new addition to the family.
Little time to enjoy it, though. Another early start on Sunday morning to get out onto the highways and byways for this long slog. I treated my legs to a relatively easy first mile for a warm-up which took me towards Louisa Bridge, and I chose to join the canal a little later (to avoid some rather rough towpath) at Deey Bridge and the 13th Lock. Then I had to put the foot down. Well, both feet. The pace picked up, and the miles ticked away. I had the radio on, and this kept my mind occupied whilst the legs whirred away down below.
Maynooth Harbour, and then on towards Kilcock. The sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a bank of cloud, so I was denied my beautiful sunrise moment. On the plus side, the promised snow showers didn’t materialise. The canal at the lock in Kilcock was frozen over, which seemed to cause some confusion for a poor heron. I pushed on westwards, and at 10 miles, with a beep of the watch, I stopped for a quick whizz and a bite of a bar and a sup from the hydration pack before turning tail and heading home.
There is a tiny benefit in terms of elevation when you head back east. It’s not that noticeable really, but it’s there. And it may account for the fact that we achieved a negative split on the return leg. I say ‘we’, but there was just me.
Apropos of nothing in particular, the heart rate, which started around the mid 140s and finished in the mid 150’s (the total average bears this out at 147) shows a sudden and, to my mind, unexplainable spike not long after I turned for home. It’s in my mind, as another blogger I follow had a similar spike in a parkrun recently, reaching close to 200. I suggested this was a glitch. If it isn’t, it would be something to keep an eye on. My own particular spike (which jumped to 170) calmed down with about two minutes and returned to what I would consider normal. I can only assume that the brief stop and then start would account for some of that spike, but it seems a little glitchy. Perhaps a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?
I made it home blissfully unaware of heart rate stats (the legs were doing most of the complaining), and was happy to get it all done in just over two hours and fifty minutes with an average of 5:18 minutes/kilometre pace. This is my last long run. Next weekend is 15 miles, and then 10 the following week.
As I’m playing a gig in my local pub on New Year’s Eve night, I am reconsidering doing the marathon on the track that day. Problem number one is a pure logistical one: I would be finishing up around 4pm, then crawling home for a bath, before heading up to the studio to take down the gear, load up the car and head to the pub for the set-up and sound check. I would be feeling rather run down, regardless of the result, and perhaps might not be at my best for the night’s festivities. And I’d fall asleep into my beer before midnight.
Secondly, I have been having an inner battle for months now regarding the ‘authenticity’ of a track marathon. It’s a bit silly, I suppose. Well, I mean the whole damn thing is a bit silly, let’s be honest, but I think a marathon is a race that needs to be run on a track or a road. It should ‘go somewhere’. Running around in circles just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the thing. (By the way, here’s one of my favourite marathon ‘inspirational’ quotes: “Why couldn’t Pheidippides have died at 20 miles?” Frank Shorter.)
Part of me is curious whether the brain could handle all that running around in circles lark. I was talking to Gary about this a while back, and he has completed a marathon on a running track. But he also told me about another marathon attempt on a track and after a few miles, he just stepped off the lane. He reckoned the mind wasn’t there that day.
Anyway, I’ll see. For now, the tentative plan would be to run on the 30th instead, and start in Kilcock and head east. Do a half, then turn for home. There is also a clear marathon route that finishes in Leixlip that stays on the towpath for its entirety, but the last leg is currently closed for works, so I could do that instead, and just start a mile or so further east. It’s the route Gary and I worked out for our Down to Town Marathon last year.
I have options. I’ll see how things pan out as we approach the big day. There is just the small matter of Christmas to sort out first.
Anyway. Dogs. There shall be dogs…
And finally, here is a picture of me on a night-out for a staff do of sorts. I couldn’t find any more tweed to put on. Sadly, this would have to do. Somebody asked at the dinner what I did for a living, and I said I was a tweed salesman. They believed me for a brief instant…
For the fashionistas out there who follow my blog (that’s a trick question, obviously), yes, those are Ralph Lauren trousers. Don’t ask me where they came from. S would know; they were picked up in a charity shop, as I recall.
And my commiserations to England fans out there, and in particular, Harry Kane. It would seem there is an ancient curse on the England football team, and now it is Harry’s turn to carry this awful and unwanted weight for the next four years, or however long his sentence lasts; it will be either the Euros or the next World Cup. That is the penalty. Désolé! And to really rub salt into this deep wound, here is a tweet following the tragedy of their quarter-final exit to the Old Enemy, France. Tant pis!