We’ll go for a Wobble

Myself and Colin Dockery clean and happy at the race start

My first night ultra run, elicited memories of waiting around for evening kick off’s in my youth. Trying to contain nervous energy and keeping a lid on any unwarranted movement or action that would drain energy away from the main event.

I had intended to get a laid on bus out to the start line but was lucky enough to be able to get a lift from Colin and borrow his support crew for the Night. Namely his brother in law Tadgh. I generally don’t like borrowing things, but in this instance I was happy to make an exception. On top of the drop bags I had left with the race organisers, I gave Tadgh a just in case bag which included enough caffeine to kill a badger, poles and a few bananas.

Once upon a time I would sign up to these events for a challenge, a test. Or whatnot. Nowadays I chase a

“This is awesome” – feeling.

Last year when I entered the 200km event, or the full as it is affectionally known that feeling was not there at any point during my 77km and 13 odd hour attempt. Yet as this large 100km group ran together through dewy grass – and light initial inclines that feeling started to flood back. Being part of a gentle train of easy going ultra runners hoping stiles and looking back at a narrow winding river of lights initiated, elicited and saturated the release of all those chemicals and hormones that I now pursue two to three times per year if possible.

With the year we have had the land was sound underfoot and it was not long before we were starting climbs, the first up and over pass towards Waterville. Which, early on has given me one of the most outstanding memory bank images from any code any year. As the thinning train faced west on top of a hill I spotted what looked like a sign outside a pub hugging the top of the hill. Totally out of place but yet perfectly mimicking the contour of the gradient on this hill.

“Is that the moon”

Total gram moment. And I would have, if my phone was easier to access and not in my first aid bag due to the promised inclement weather. The illumination gave me all the reasons why an event like this should be done. Imagination’s running wild of early iron and or Bronze Age Celts running these same very fields ateing mushrooms and tripping balls at this very same sight millennia ago.

As amazing as it all was, getting into and out of Waterville felt longer than expected as the gradients started to come fast and furious. You run when you can or walk hike when you have too, befriending a young Cork buck after hiking out of Waterville – talking all things from travel to the merseyside derby, I said will we get back running. He said,

“We’ll go for a Wobble”

And Wobble we did only to be interrupted by an unyielding herd of cattle slowing for hills and mountains that were becoming more common place in their severity all under the most amazing watch full gaze of a sky of stars that really but on a show for every runner throughout the night. God bless whoever thought of protecting dark sky areas in Mayo and the kingdom because they are a treasure to cherish.

Winding into Caherdaniel at about 25kms approximately all went to plan. My borrowed crew member now a treasure also. I was helped quickly fill my reservoirs and soft bottles.

And was it needed. I found the 16kms to Sneem very hard going. It took over two and a half hours, but time did not seem to factor. Clock time that is. I honestly thought It was closer to 12 or 1am and could not believe it was closer to 3 am. Time outside of race time just seemed to fade away into obscurity. Not needed, secondary almost. It was really weird – any thoughts about running through the night and points of the night just faded away they were unimportant now.

It was just black, reflections and spooky trails through low lying hedges and trees where feedback from leaves and branches would seem like hands waving at you and took a while to get used to versus what was actually a reaction of light and shadows. My hip at this point was really starting to get sore and pain travelled down my leg through the TFL highway and straight away knew that I should have kept my prescribed rehab up over the last few weeks. knocking out the first marathon or thereabouts into Sneem I did what I have never done before in a race. I took a pain killer. Solpadeine.

Paul Kimmage did flash through my head, but the analgesic effect also washed away my morals. As I ran the 20kms now towards Spillane country Templenoe It was nice not being in pain. I pushed on.

Getting close to 4am, my wife with her fractured pelvis was awake giving me updates from our bed in Mayo. I was in 26th, Colin was pushing on and doing great. So I thought I could now try and race and plug that gap a bit. The temperature dropped and I felt a chill so I put my rain jacket on where it waited for the duration of the remainder.

I knew this stretch having done the lite 58km race previously so I went as well as I could. It was only coming into Templenoe that I was caught by someone. Thankfully so, an actual Kerry man and a gent no less. I say, as previously I had met the 4 horses of the apocalypse coming into Foilmore last year this year we were set upon by the 4 dogs of a See You Next Tuesday.

Well that’s what she was. Some Yank. All I could see where 4 sets of canine eyes illuminating in the lights. As tired as I was, I realised that the ACP-CP system that I had learned about three times now in my undergrad studies kicked into gear. This system if you do not know gives you very short bouts of explosive movements. With 60kms in the tank, feck me. That system is one good system because it fired up no bother at all.

She. The Yank. Then proceeded to say. “Don’t touch my fucking dogs” of whom were gone buck ape. Then proceeded to call me, and a fella from actual Killarney. “Fucking Tourists” the mind boggles.

The bull was right.

Around the corner I had a quick re fuel in Templenoe, alerted stewards of the said nut job and grabbed my running poles and another pain killer from my borrowed run crew.

In my head I felt that once I got to the next stop I was on the pigs back. Kenmare was of a shorter distance away but there was sealed and boggy hills to circumvent to get there. Colin was on about David Goggins on the drive out so I re listened to his interview with Rich Roll. And much like the DR Joe Dispenza meditation I did between for a part between Sneem and Templenoe. It did help. Just in a totally different way. Research both and try them out.

I was still powering on strong, pushing as hard as I could – Kenmare reveals itself in the valley. It’s a false reveal though as the carpet of buildings are further than they seem. I was passed out by someone I know, I won’t mention his name as he was racing in keto and may not want that public but I did remark that I was being passed out by a guy that was eating cheese and peparami as race fuel at considerable speed.

Coming into Kenmare village I had to ask a lady in a dry robe where the aid station was. Even though I actually did know where it was, looking back now it’s one of my first signs of my impending “feckedupness” refuelling with everything for the final 25km push which takes in the greatest bastard hill the world has ever seen. I know it, I have raced it. I knew it was there and what had to be done. Get it out of the way and I’m nearly home in a very decent mid pack placing and time.

Driving into my climbing poles I could feel the fatigue in my triceps. I put the saw doctors on Spotify. I even started singing, to which my right honourable friend from Co. Down had a giggle.

“To win just Wance, to wiiiiiiiiiiiiin just Waaaaaaaance”

Could a man be any more Mayo in the high twenties placings. Still though get to the top of bastard hill and I’m fine.

It is only a couple of Km’s but It takes ages. I was being passed by what I now know where relay runners that I thought were Nite runners which felt like a stream of failure to me at this stage. Relay runners by right should be tarred and feathered, but then what do we all seem like to the 200km entrants ? It’s honestly a mind feck and I’m not gonna be political about it.

I got to the top of that hill(s)

Then,

Yes of course.

BAM.

It was not nutrition because I was anal about fueling, It was not training related because I have the best coaches available. Maybe it was treating the hip and leg pain, or maybe my expectations for myself are too high and my ego to great because at the beginning of the decent down to Torc and about 18kms to the 103.5 km finish. I was officially fecked up.

I can only describe it as a state of exhaustion that all I wanted to do was go for a sleep. I had no energy, I still had nutrition but nothing would fire the engine up. There is no other option but to keep going as here it is inaccessible to everything but a helicopter or Kerry mountain rescue.

And if I had called Kerry mountain rescue I would have been known as the greatest snowflake in the history of ultra running. I would have to go back playing football at 41 years of age. And the story would still probably filter though.

It took my 3 hours to walk 15kms. On the technical aspect I was like a drunk walking down a stairs holding two babies. And boy did it all drag. I’d say my run coach nearly had a nervous breakdown. My wife – would be well used to this by now. A slow zombie death march trying to accept niceties from tourists, that I think I may have scared a bit – eye balling them hoping they would offer me some magic foodstuff like a rabies infected lone dog but they smiled and kept their distance saying the immortal line.

“Your nearly there”

Que, a biblical rain where I put on my safety gear – waterproof pants gloves and hat circumventing the steps at Torc waterfall. A couple shifting in the rain. Seriously, feck off. Then the mind warp of trying to enter and exit Muckross.

Eventually finishing on my watch 103.5kms in 18 hours and 29 minutes, surprisingly to me since then in 32nd (male) place and close enough to mid pack to keep some sort of semblance of performance for all the investment of time and resources, and considered injury time melt down.

Colin, who had done exceptionally well and come 11th was there to greet me. Having retired his brother in law of his duties. But all I wanted was my Jim Jams and to sleep. Which I did. To awaken and book an unplanned room for the night.

From initial disappointment, the result has grown on me. Mainly because from a state of wanting to call rescue 118 to realising that come the Sahara desert next year even on fumes I can still push out 20 odd kms.

This is a massive learning and positive to be taken from an exceptionally amazing and special place in the world.

Kudos to all that ran, irrespective if you finished or not. As these races are a challenge like no other.

B

Don’t Do It

Heading into the gym yesterday to do my own work out was as much as getting away from Dad duties as it was doing some work. A semi motivated sense of freedom just as much a wish for consistent improvement. With the carrot of a possible Guinness 0.0 if I felt I performed well enough to deserve it in Rouse’s. Good news is, you always perform well enough to deserve a stout whether san or non san alcohol.

Some sessions in a semi motivated haze one can pull it out of the bag, yesterday was just not on point. However it did offer me time to reflect and notice that with the type of training, Olympic lifting – Two days rarely seem to be the same. It’s a raft of similar exercises or derivatives. Provided by my own coach a Wexican currently singing Deutschland Uber alles yet after what is now 3 years since I woefully started to attempt olympic lifts I don’t think two sessions have been the same.

This is both frustrating and awesome. Frustrating that a 40 kilo weight yesterday would not stick compared to a previous weeks 45 kilo PB. Yet awesome in that after 3 years and 2 coached specifically the journey is so long and varied with absolutely no end in sight.

This component of exercise is totally addictive. Beware. DO NOT START.

Movement , power , speed , and timing- it’s like trying to catch a wave without any water , trying to get on the end of a move without any ball. It can be all encompassing body and mind neurological pathways attempting to link cells with each other order to acquiesce an up down flow of kilos under control and of course sharing on all things social meeja. As, well – if a tree falls.

I swear on some reps I still think, how the hell am I going to horse this above my head. I close my eyes, breath and visualise somehow survive to tell the tale or press stop record.

Whatever you do. Don’t get into it. Keep doing what you are doing.

Then some days when the stars align nailing a movement , sequence or lift bringing my systems to new heights or in this components natures physical lows will elicit some of the greatest natural. (Note natural) release of chemical highs.

Old dogs and new tricks is a load of bollix, this was started in my 39th year and whilst knobs may scoff once one is in a consistent constant process irrespective of age and ability I believe done safely this is for all. Especially the female class go’er of whom I have found take to this like a duck to water. Maybe Q angle derived. That’s one for another day and the goo scholar.

But hey, stick to the tried and tested. Do not start anything new and exiting.

A hang clean may be a gateway drug. Opening up the probability and possibilities of further and highly addictive practices that may lead you into a life of despair and wonder why your ass will not get down any further. Why god, why.

In my first Olympic lifting work shop a lecturer had to physically hold onto the bar whilst I lifted it in order to show a kinetic method of teaching in order for me to realise the importance of speed and bar speed travelling towards the knees. He may as well have been punching me in the head for the length of time it took to “Get It” – hitherto I believe whether this strikes or not after 9 years in the industry anything that may need kinetic, visual and or audible ques in a fitness class has some of the greatest longevity for interest and enjoyment long term.

But please don’t get into it. I beg you.

Loops

Loops are generally not my thing, there are some crazy looped events. Back yard Ultra Marathons where competitors will run a loop of anything from 1km to 5km for up to 300kms or more. Also 24 hour looped Olympic running track events are popular among some long distance runners. Running 400 metre loops non stop for a given distance or time. I would sooner go back to Lourdes and re sit my leaving cert pass maths paper than sign up for one of these style ultra events.

I like the long loop, or the point to point. They seem a bit more Gnarly, and much like the electrician that tells you he wired that house over there on that estate on the right. I like to tell those than pretend to listen “I ran from there to there in 7 hours only stopping to piss”.

The Portumna Forest Ultra was a 50 kilometre race made up of ten 5km loops going from the forest car park out towards Lough Derg and back again via the main gate. It was a mixture of tarmac road, and forest sealed trail. I was hoping to do their 100km initially but it was cancelled due to lack of numbers so the 50 was all I could get in June. And if I am being really honest I was so happy not to be doing a 100km on Saturday. And I hope I will be up for and feeling stronger for the Kerry way 100km Ultra Night in September. This race was a stop gap after falling apart in Connemeara. 50kms seemed to be short enough but long enough. Having done it, I think it would be a lovely entry into the world of ultra running for anyone who may be interested.

I don’t win races, I think the last race I won was a liquid motion triathlon club duathlon race series where all the top dogs were away and I was in early season Ironman mode in 2014 for Ironman Lanzarote. I had a 3rd place finish in a duathlon in Castlebar about the same time. So any bit of silverware for all the training I do is about as likely as Kilkenny winning an All Ireland football final.

Still though, I look at previous results though, and hope that standards are a bit lower or it clashes with another race so that maybe the mid pack runner that I am has a shot at a voucher for a 20kg bag of beef nuts or what not. Honestly, i’d be happy winning an STD.

Looking back in the last few years of the Portumna 50km I thought a top 10 was nailed on, and maybe if I pulled off a 4:05 to 4:10 finish time. I could get to an asses roar of a podium finish.

Staying the night before in an 172 year old former post office now Air B and B with a slight throat, cough and snots because of course I had a race the next day. Psycological me was play acting with Physiological me. Or is this a post covid thing, post covid stress thing. Who knows, but I am getting my bloods done next week. And yes – MY HEART RATE IS STILL ACTING RIDICULOUS, months on from getting the plague. Maybe answers will be forthcoming. It does seem that many age groupers like myself who have had covid may have similar respiratory and cardiovascular issues from earlier on this year so I’m looking forward to the boffins coming up with some studies.

Race morning was nice and fresh with a very chill vibe. I really liked it. There is a lot to be said for being able to park across from the race start and only worry about whether I need to poop or not before the race. The age old conundrum.

Any thoughts, hopes , feelings of pulling off something in Portumna Forest were quickly dispelled when I saw the proliferation of Nike 4% running shoes and singlets.

“Are we not going for comfort lads?” I mused.

Two Mayo A.C lads looked so very focused. As they all did in fairness. I felt like an absolute outsider looking in. Lacking in form and confidence – there was a quiet admiration of their focus among the pines.

Furthermore I have since come to the conclusion that the further one goes from carbon plates and nipple chafing and closer to Rincon’s and comfy soft running Tees. The less physical pain may be experienced.

Off they went like the clappers, I counted 15 out the gap straight away. Considering the male winner did 50kms in 3:25 and the female in 3:40. Daycent Marathon (42.2km) times in their own right it shows how fast and consistent the front pack were. For a period before the other races started and whilst the field was not too spread out one could count the placings and see what positioning I was at.

I was told to keep it comfortable until 30kms which I tried to do. I thought 5:00 to 5:30 pace would be comfortable but come 35 kilometres I started to slip towards 6 to 6:30 pace so maybe I should have flipped that around and finished stronger. Much like the footballer in his or her latter stages of career one thinks of what they could so when the present reality is not the case. Same with marathon pb’s pacing etc I feel. I am slowly realising that if it is not happening day to day in the present moment it is not going too turn itself on, on the day. Basic stuff. Yet frustrating nonetheless.

I did have to walk run a few times. My Garmin data tells me I walked 19 times and stopped 5 times to get nutrition on board. 19 times seems like a lot of individual walking bouts. The only way I can describe it is trying to get the Revs up in your car to get going again. Each of those 19 times is not a nutritional bonk or over pacing.

I was just fucked.

Fucked for some reason that needs figuring, its nothing serious. Just a lack of mineral and or loss of form. Its happened many Ions ago in football but not since I started all things endurance in 2008. Talking to a doc today cortisol deficiency maybe a thing. Blood results should point a way.

As the other races held that day slowly trickled down as the organisers finished their marathon, half marathon and 10km groups. (there was 600 racers total). Whilst the mid to rear 50km and marathon groups remained on the course slogging it out between boiling rain and some pretty warm sun shine. What really shone was who may have been one of the oldest guys in the field gleefully laughing and talking to anyone that past. A big smiley head of resilience and happiness that is what it all is about really.

The only way to describe the age, without offence is to know that I can allow 30-40 more years of training and racing to find the form and get the win. I think that image of him was cathartic in nature and would make a great anti depressant if bottled. for those that were there would have felt his vibes. he could have been a silver surfer on the point breaks of Malibu or a Buddhist monk defying the laws of life.

The final two laps and 10km onto 50km were not pretty, but are they ever. especially the second last. the last lap will always veer to a greater effort due to the nature of it. Still needing the odd run walk to build the revs up and go again it was just about getting back to the car and figuring out how to drive back up to the North West of the country from what feels like is below the equator as it’s so far south for Connaught.

I was passed out on the final stretch which pushed me into 19th Male, 23rd overall and 4 hours and 31 minutes for 50km. Absolutely burst.

Some day’s later I am still not right, and not even in the form to write. The frustration of not being able to scrap towards the middle to end of races is frustrating. Not that it would result in any glory but more so the feeling of a job well done and all given. Taking that away makes the whole experience a bit lethargic, pointless and boring. Which simply is not me.

I am really looking forward to the vampire taking some of the native stuff and sending for analysis. That along with preventative maintenance on a hip flexor and or glute issue should get all systems fired up again and ready to hit the road, which all lead to Killarney. Threading together the Kerry way.

Where I hope, a win. Not the podium type but form version. Over the Course of 100kms through the wilds of Kerry will set me up for the Sahara in 2023.

B

Ps. Thanks to Coolbawn Cross Photography for the image(s)

Mental Toughness V Mental Resilience

The Gram is great for all things bicep’s and if you are that way inclined Dermot Bannon style windows and house upgrades in general. Keeping up with the Jones has never been easier or more stressful – whichever way you look at it. Bring back the 1980’s I say. Everything looked a bit crap and nobody really cared. From jumpers to green or brown baths sinks and toilets.

A post from the @Sism clinic caught my eye during the week, and I have been thinking about it on and off since. Dermot Bannon style window thoughts for my head if that makes sense to you. They shared the equivalent of a Velux window. A Study from “The Sports Psychologist” regarding The Development and Maintenance of Mental Toughness from the World’s Best Performers.

It is behind a pay wall so relax you are not going to get an in depth breakdown. Which is great because I do not have the paperwork nor experience to deliver same.

It is on elite level performers , so you can nearly guess some of the findings. Listed by level of performance namely – Unshakable self belief, bouncing back from set backs, focus , desire, accepting anxiety , pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain in competition , thriving under pressure , not being effected by the performance of others , remaining fully focused and finally being able to switch a sports focus on and off as required. Connaughton, Sheldon, canton, Jones (2010)

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have all those qualities, and not find yourself in the corner of a pitch, course or court with a lump of poop in your underpants. All I can hear is commentary from our own Marty Morrissey in Crossmolina PJ Hughes noting “A point from Mc Donnell” whilst others would shank, balloon, or have the hand up in apology before the ball has left ones foot.

The same could be said for many others in similar and different codes. Cain Killcullen going vertical, then drawing lines like a stroke of a brush that any artist would be proud of. Whilst invariably other weekend warriors are focused on survival. Rachel Kearns bangs a goal on a wet day in headquarters then goes the other side of the world a few weeks later and makes the cats purr with a six pointer from distance. Shauna Howley picks up tips from Master O’ Connor about swirly winds, and much like an aerospace engineer calculates how she will impact a ball with her foot in the direction of block G row F seat 53. They all possess the same qualities as noted by Connaughton et al (2010).

These are very high end mental skills and or qualities. Saved for the top shelf sports personalities and performance. Having marvelled from close and afar for years I do stand confused because in my opinion mental toughness has a very close relation. Who is called Mental Resilience.

At any given moment in any given time, race, event, game – all of the pointers honed in by Connaughton et al (2010) could be replayed within a 60 second period. A feedback loop of self doubt to anxiety chipping away at an internal cave only broken up in view by stalactites and stalagmites of stabbing lack of self belief. Hanging from the top and or pressing up from the ground but never connecting at the same time. Yet – somehow those that have a mental resilience can continue to mine. Continue to extract all the minerals needed in order to complete tasks, races, studies or even the ability to go to a fitness class and complete the darn thing when your whole world is caving in around you.

Is that not a mental toughness Mr Connaughton?

The ability to deliver a certain skillset on a regular basis is reserved for the few. Yet having a train operating in your own cave chugging along picking up minerals and depositing them whilst the walls shake with crippling lack for self belief and anxiety is for the masses. Once preventative maintenance is performed on this train on a regular basis it will keep chugging along and it will reach its destination day in and day out.

Irrespective of being overwhelmed, whimsical mocking looks, or fake smiles. Giving currency to a previous bout of bitching, keep that small train on its tracks and it will turn down an internal request for unneeded carbohydrate, missing a class and taking the easier option in general.

Mental toughness maybe top shelf but Mental resilience is as common as muck, and as Gerry Cinnamon noted along a similar vein of rock – “No’ the best place , but there’s diamonds in the mud”

B

Discipline equals Freedom

Time, time for family and friends, work and or study. Time for exercise. Time to prepare. Time to eat right, time for Yoga and or Meditation. Time to shop, Time for holidays. Time to chill – read, Netflix watch a game or watch some reality TV. Chances are that If you are reading this you are in a similar position trying to or intending to, get as much of the above done in any given day.

let me share with you – something that I have picked up from @Jockowillink. A former seal and now author and podcast host he rises and has his first workout done generally by 4:30 am. Everyday. wherever he is. His Instagram account shows a cheap Timex watch with the random times from these workout completed on every third post for posterity. With his personal history and background his work outs are done before his enemies, before the local world starts its day.

If I am being very honest, I get off on this greatly. I had been intrigued for about a year wondering if it was possible long term. It could be done for a few days, but for months and years was it realistic. Having had the opportunity to do an online workshop with @tomcoleman.ie A sleep coach, last year via the Mayo ladies on sleep and it’s importance for not only the athlete but also performance in age group day to day life I think I take it all pretty seriously – down to sleep meditations, eye masks and Happy Ear ear plugs. All to the amusement of my partner who can just knock off and doze at the flick of a switch.

learning all about the cortisol and melatonin relationship, influences on the circadian rhythm and anchoring said rhythm. Regulating my hormones and the production of hormones psychological repair and muscle repair. It all happens within these hours from once eyes close to when they open again.

According to Tom we sleep in 90 minute cycles 5 x 90 equals 7.5 hours sleep which is the optimum amount of sleep. However when you compare to Roger Federer who sleeps on average for 9 hours per night.

The fact that Strand Fitness is an evening/night based fitness business squeezes the time a bit. And I do find it conflicting the science with Tom and the “Go Get Some” with Jocko. Personally If I give something 21 days of effort generally it sticks. I am 14 days into this and I am starting to average about 6 hours sleep heading for 6:15/6:20 per night which is about an hour less than Tom recommends but not a whole pile off.

However

I have to say that @Jockowillinks influence here is savage altogether! I do love it. Don’t get me wrong, there has been one or two mornings so far that I have gone “Why am I doing this to myself” but for the most part it has been just a few seconds. like many with responsibilities, but very selfish towards my own life goals which evolve around various forms of sport the benefit(s)of rising at 4:45 every morning Monday to Sunday is opening up so much time to do the things I continue to want to do whilst at the same time being present at home for Alma and the kids and always having the energy to play a bit of football with the young fella whenever he asks. which is the daily litmus test.

I am not a machine.

I do of course nap, when needs be. Jocko shared a 10 minute (set to watch timer) nap routine with ones legs elevated which I may do 2/3 times a day. Depending on fatigue – for example last week I did a 30k run interval session starting at 5am finishing at 7:30 am. I did 3 x 10 minutes feet elevated naps that day but for the most part even with that level training stress I think I performed well at everything I do that day. I may hit the couch when I am babysitting my own children! And I can snooze if they are watching Titus and Ray Ray, Peppa, Gabby, Pj Masks, or Cocomelon.

Right now, its 6:26 am. I have done a 15 minute work out in the shed, fine tuned an assignment for college, writing this blog and I will get a 40 minute recovery run on the treadmill as its raining and I’m not arsed getting wet. The encouragement for the kids to get breakfast in and get ready for school. (yes I do mean roaring and shouting) will begin about the 7:45 mark and with energy I can get a pile of other things done that need doing. but without the stress of squeezing. That squeezing ruins more sessions than weather ever did.

At 2 weeks it’s early days, but I had been getting up at 6 from November to do my @drjoedispenza meditations until mid march when getting covid broke my streak. So I kind of feel I have been making the effort for about 6 months.

I am blogging about this personal issue because I do recommend it. I see the benefit of it for those that want it. However know that Elite level athletes need 7.5 hours or more hours sleep, Youth need more sleep, do your own research on the science and its importance. And at the very least follow @tomcoleman.ie for more qualified information.

I do love the @Jockowillink stuff, I am a wannabe. As regards his book and mantra about Extreme ownership and “Getting Some” on the daily. However to finish on a lighter note, wondering if I was born elsewhere and if I could have followed a similar career path like the character and characters about Jocko Willink et al.

I watched a Tik Tok video about special forces recently, they all had a Rabbit. Big fecking rabbits they were too. The size of a medium sized dog. The military instructor showed them how to kill the rabbit striking the animal obviously with a rabbit punch at the back of the head. I thought Ok. They are special forces.

Then in order to get nutrition from the rabbit, in a situation that they needed nutrition as fast as possible the instructor showed them how to suck the eye out of the recently deceased rabbit.

Exactly. Feck that.

It was at this point I personally realised that I am about as hard as a sponge cake.

But in fairness, Extreme ownership and “Getting some” on the daily is for us all. If you notice though It is not getting up to work. It is getting up to do the fun things you want to do. Personally I think this is crucial for the success of this endeavour if anyone would like to give it a go.

Holler if you would like to talk about it further with me

Barry

PS. The above pic is from last Saturday mornings run around grange where I saw a handful of Pheasent’s, a couple of Deer and a hape of hares. There are red squirrels down there too. It is easier to see them early in the morning.

Burying The Ego

In the Richter scale for measuring earthquakes – for each one point increase in the scale, there is a 10 fold increase in the magnitude of the earthquake.

8.8 to 8.9 may not seem that much on paper but in real terms there is a world of difference. I think this is the best way to describe what I experienced last year attempting the Kerry Way Ultra 200km trail race. How hard could 200kms be really. Ricki Wynne et al were completing these races in less than 24 hours. surely I can do it in about 30 hours.

8.8 to 8.9. Consequential. Each point increase there is a 10 fold magnitude increase.

I was even given great advice from one of my friends, who had been part of a support team. “They were hallucinating at 150kms” she said.

I did hear her, but hearing and listening are two different things.

The race is just a different gravy, from landscape to the effects of said landscape. I would argue even a lack of mobility would effect the down parts and a winter spent in the mountains going up for the up parts. Underfoot, a constant slab knawing away at ones feet. It just burns and saps energy. And if you are not going down top of your game forget about it. Greater men and women have faltered and it has certainly humbled me so much that I have spent the time since calling everything into question.

Ego though, the legendary internal Dickhead. The Dickhead that is bruised and hurt. Bet into the dog house. Head bowed and fire quenched. It pines to get back at it. Proving to oneself, as nobody else really cares. That yes of course it can be conquered on a second attempt. So when the post race blues kick in with an already bruised sense of self it is the easiest thing to do, get the plastic out and hit up a little bit of early season dopamine.

This time it was different, the reality of 8.8 to 8.9 – remembering how unbelieveably fecked I was after 13 hours and only 77 kms. It would take another 4 hours run, hike, walk to even get to Waterville and half way. Then what. Getting to the graveyard of Kerry way ambition at only half way. Would I be creating another narrative or somehow feeding and driving on the impending natural hallucinogens.

This time, for the first time. I have decided to Bury the Ego. Bury it well and listen to the advice.

Go a bit easier, enjoy a bit more and try and seek out a win. Not a podium win. A personal win – try and find those legs again, form again. Try and find that bite again. Thankfully I was able to switch to the Kerry Way Ultra Nite. Which starts at the aforementioned graveyard of Kerry Way Ultra ambition in Waterville and winds its way to Killarney at a very tough 100kms approx. Done for the most part under the cover of darkness. I have raced from Sneen to Killarney on the same course for the Kerry Way Ultra lite 64kms in 6 hours and 50 minutes so this gives a great indication of the approximate time the 100kms will take.

I have never raced at night, I have not completed a 100kms in a race or training yet and all this coupled with the type of terrain ahead will make for a perfect challenge this season.

With the ego funeral over and ashes spread it makes for a fresh and honestly more enjoyable block of training that brings me to Portumna at their 50km forest race in early June. Post Canning country we will get even more race specific and I am quite looking forward to that.

And maybe in the future we will join that circle from Foilmore beyond the graveyard and complete that awesome ancient trail.

Connemeara 64k Ultra

Slowly but surely we are all starting to tick off all the Covid era races entered. I had entered the Connemearathon series races for 2021 to replace what was then Marathon Des sables which is now on in 2023 for me.

As we are all ticking off races, from talking to a few friends and competitors on the start line many of us had Covid in march and had missed blocks of training.

I was not too bothered about the week missed in march nor missing a bit with a back injury. Having being training solid for the last number of years there is a cumulative effect. What bugged me for this race was that left field virus that was knocking about last week. All of the house got it starting with the kids then Alma and myself . It seem to come in waves, throat and coughing, general respiratory tightness. All Covid negative – but my resting heart rate held a stubborn 60 ish for the last 10 days. Right up to Saturday. I did not check it race morning.

I had tried everything from propolis, tumerics , honey and lemon, gargling solpadein but nothing would move on what was a really annoying throat. Generally the rule of thumb is of your HR is 10 beats above your normal resting take a few days off and rest.

But with the nature of life at the moment, the fact that with 3 smallies there seems to be someone sick all the time and coupled with an unknown racing future speaking for myself I was going to give it a blast and that was that. There is always the hope that adrenaline will take over on race day.

Which in fairness it did, once we were off I was in “get some” mode. Taking it fairly handy at about 5:30 pace and having a plan of taking it easy for the first 10 plus Kms . Which I did and I felt great, lovely vibe to this race and it made racing initially with traffic very comfortable.

It was starting to get hot early on and I was happy to have taken hydration tablets and plenty of coconut water during the week. The wind was in your face throughout. That really hot foreign type of wind with heat.

What a day all the same, considering geographically we are so close to connemeara but yet spend so little time there. The blue sky to rocky mountain backdrops were jaw dropping.

I knew that it was going to be a battle either way, I knew that the immune system cannot be conned or taken for a ride but yet there is always hope that respectability can be allowed within my own physiology.

I did not expect my quads to start locking up as they did, but much like anything working – machine or not if something starts to come loose it generally leads to further issues.

I started to loose what was 5:10 to 5:20 pace coming into leenane. I had been breaking it down into 10kms and this was about the 40km mark. It really dragged going downhill for some reason. Maybe the wind off killary fjord. At the official marathon distance I was goosed. I took a few minutes to down some lucozade sport and extra water before the final half marathon back to Maam Cross.

Those that were there, know the two hills . They do live in infamy. The first is out of leenane. In ultras (outside of the singlet wearing terminator types) you learn when to walk fast versus run. And that hill was a walker. The only issue is getting the engine revved up to go again.

Close to the top, a fella called Donal from killkenny who knew me from my own s and c coach Darren, a Wexican. Stopped to say hello en route to the top. We got the revs up together and very slowly started ticking the Kms off.

Playing rabbit, as Donal called it one of us would run and the other catch and vice versa. I know this probably sounds nuts. But it does work. I don’t know why but it’s like the body goes through waves of energy that can get you going for a few Kms and then it crashes again.

We did this for about 15kms until I had no more wabbit chasing ability.

It did remind me of doing Ironman’s at this point slowly counting down metres into Kms and trying to just end the race. As beautiful as it is and amazing a day we were all burnt to a cinder and dreading the final hill that I had heard so much about.

And boy did it live up to its legend . This was definitely a walker, Finn O Meara came up behind me having done the Longford 50kms.yhe previous day run/walking it. The odd marathoner would make a spurt but for the most part it was the zombie walk of the dead.

Once the gradient ended, it plateaued for a few hundred metres and then you could see Peacocks Hotel pyramid roof off in the distance . It was less that 4 Kms away but seemed way further.

We all managed to start running again at this point. Funnily I found a nice rhythm again and cruised down home to Maam Cross and the 40 mile/64k Ultra finish in 6:44.

I went in knowing that there would be carnage, thankfully with experience everything was on point with nutrition, hydration, potassium, salts and overall training miles done. I had hoped for closer to 6 hours feeling well. So it is what it is.

I’m glad I did start and finish. As annoying as it is not performing, I think with the nature of all that is going on at the moment it’s probably best take any opportunity going and giving it a lash.

The connemeara half, marathon and ultra distances are tough bloody races, if you are up for a challenging day I do recommend. They are really well organized with buses to and from race line and back, course hydration etc. The landscape is awesome and I had forgotten how beautiful it all is down there. That being said it will be a while before I re attempt that 40 miler.

All in all, being so crippled trying to get something to eat last night, I’m still in a hoop now – I am going to re asses the rest of the year.

It seems to be several years of racing misfortune that started with the 100km in Ballina being cancelled when the temperature plummeted, marathon des sables saga, the nightmare in Kerry last September and trying to dodge whatever snotter box ailment that the kids have.

I think it’s time to drop the next race back from 200kms to 100kms and just get a performance win under the belt.

Taking a step back, observing and going again.

Barry

Ps.

Well done to my ikkle brother on his first marathon I hope he will still talk to me . Alma on her first half marathon. She has no choice but to talk to me. And local runners Finn o Meara and a massive performance from Phil Jeffries with a sub 6 post 2:50 Manchester marathon. Stud.

Chewed and spat out by the Kerry Way Ultra

Myself and some girl called Simone

The geology of Kerry is so different than that of Mayo. Cretaceous rocks formed which include quartz or red jasper may sound exotic but look unforgiving. They bite at your feet, snapping flags, Jenga’d together and require eyes on all the time, which is energy sapping from the outset.

I reckon there could be a claim and a certain Kerry man called Sean could be taken up the steps and brought under the harp to defend his statemnt that the initial 40k is just conversations and selfies. I beg to differ. The undulating black valley is as vast a valley that I have ran between opening up into a life like tapestry of interwoven fields filled with all those rocks and flags. Most natural, but some, placed there.

Many glide, just like Simone in the above image. A seamless manoeuvre of feet and poles rinsing through jagged toe crunchers whilst I felt and moved like the pieball that placed himself selfishly on a previous trail unwilling to move but allowing friendly nose rubs from competitors.

So focused on the task at hand, to get up and then negotiate down the part of the Iveragh we were on, I did not realise Carrauntoohil was to our right. Mainly because so many were descending so fast, while I was waiting for some sort of running leg semblance to occur.

Meeting Alma in Glencar I was hinting that I was fucked and today was not happening. Wanting to break a leg or ankle, something decent to allow a dignified exit. She rilled me up with a can of coke and tuna wrap getting me up and going again.

The terrain eased a bit, rocks and flags were replaced with forest trails and fields, interspersed with some sealed roads and trails. I could not shift the negative destructive thought process. It just waited, there for some unknown reason like a fog. It could have been burned away, there was options. But the overriding sentiment was to leave the fog there.

Running slowed once more to a hike, sealed roads became trails once more and the elevation gave way to amazing views. As the rocks gave way to the sea view of Rossbeigh and peninsulas jutted, it gave a false sense of gain and of a more gradual physical decline. As I dropped into Glebeigh now at the 56km mark the wheels were starting to wobble and again Alma got me going.

The only goal at this stage was to beat my previous run PB of 70kms. This started by negotiating a fairy forest. Which by all standards was apt. Meeting fellow runners becomes a bipolar experience smiling and talking shite whilst the horrors of inner demons work their own magic within the fog that will not lift. Because simply one wont let it. I’m gonna hold onto this fog and suffer.

What then became a walk hike second marathon, where feet now compressed and swollen due to the wrong running shoe option I believe are supported by what felt like brittle bones and warping fascia. Plod plod plod. Smiles and bipolar was only interjected by the sight of what I believe was my first civil war monument to a solider called Frank O Grady. With the weird chemical imbalance that comes with ultra endurance and at this stage of the race with my own mental state… the thought of Irish fellas killing other Irish fellas in this spot was extra morbid.

Still had the craic with another athlete for a brief sunshine and lolly pop moment before what would be my last climb at Drung hill. Probably one of the most amazing ultra scapes high above the N70 and the hum of traffic. Continually clipping rocks trying to summon some sort of decency.

As I crested I thought ‘fuck me that’s Waterville in the distance’… (It was cahersiven – I was off my head) I started to do all sorts of amazing calculations, that added to numbers that still make no sense, but if my calculations were correct I was still fucked and more than likely would be pulling the pin there in Waterville (which was not Waterville)

My running legs returned for a brief sojourn, but so brief it was a empty attempt. Feet burning and legs gone. Head left somewhere at Torc waterfall (10km into race)

No matter what Alma says this is it. It’s time to quit this bullshit of ultra marathons, what am I trying to prove running 200 fucking kilometres when I could be doing something way easier. Fuck marathon des sables…I’m gonna try and get my money back. I spent 30 pound sterling on a titanium spoon. Snake venom extractor, and I have a 400 euro sleeping bag specifically for the desert.

What in the fuck am I at.

Where the fuck is Alma?? I past 70kms. Wooop di do. 3 athletes came up behind me with poles rattling spread across the road like the 3 cork members of the horses of the apocalypse. Into a field that was just covered in lime it was the perfect place for a body to fall. The lime would just take its course. Then there she was, my wife, in a field, come to find me!! She had befriended all of the Kerry way ultra crews it seemed. She even had Rachel Kearns send me a ‘pick me up’ voice note, which was really sweet…But with 123km to go I needed steroids, angel dust or copious amounts of that horse de wormer. The best footballer in the country was not going to do it.

Alma tried. But I was done. I had come down a bit sick thinking the run would fix it or I might get fired up by the buzz. But no. And if I am to be super honest – I got found out. Much like a team meets another team and gets hammered. Areas lacking from preparation and recce. What would get one through other distances and courses simply will not wash in this Cretaceous landscape. I was humbled, so humbled I was nearly happy. Happy that I now know what needs to be done. Rather than dropping out prior to the race, using the excuse of sickness, having a lash and saying fuck it. This is where I am at, a pieball once more in its own jungle chasing skinny bastard stallions and Mares along the fairy forest highway.

This race, in my opinion wants respect. It wants to be fondled for a few attempts before it finally lets you finish. Some have that talent, some can do it straight away. But my back of the envelope calculations count 46 retired and non comp versus 90 finishers. That’s a decent support group.

So, if this is the way it is to be, so be it. I know when a battle is lost, sitting in Foilmore Gaa club in my electric picnic chair. But by fucking jaysis I will be back and I’ll get to Waterville and maybe have another mental breakdown there or maybe have that breakdown in Caherdaniel, Sneem or even kenmare. But some day I will stand in glory at Randall’s Nissan Garage on the Muckross Rd…where normal people go about their daily business, buying coleslaw for lunch, surrounded by half starved and fully demeneted pie balls, stallions, mares and ponies trying not to be run over by a whistling jarvey. It’s the normality of this scene that will make the feeling of accomplishment all the more worth while, having added 123 kilometres to Fridays effort.

Fasted running

Earlier on this year i watched Mike Mc knight complete a 100 mile or 160km run fasted. As in he did not eat any food directly prior to beginning his run and during his run for the duration of the race. He did take on water and essential minerals which the body needs for such an attempt. But no food.

You can see this in his Instagram stories @thelowcarbrunner. I obviously thought this effort and completion of such a feat was awesome not because I am a big believer in fasting but more so that as a feat I thought the mind over matter and physiological effort was really cool to watch and see completed.

Funnily enough he received a lot of negative press and online abuse for this. It seems that begrudgeery is not just an Irish phenomenon. He was pilloried amoung the long/Ultra community too.

When I started back on my fitness journey in the late 2000’s I would run early in the morning without any breakfast. Just in the thought that it may at the time help with weight loss. My thoughts being if there is no food in my system it is obvious that running 5kms at the time around the north Dublin burbs would help.

This morning as per the attached picture I ran just over 17kms in a somewhat fasted state. This is 1. “stimulating peripheral fat oxidation, resulting in increased fat utilization and weight loss’’ not as a weight losing exercise per se but more of a long term approach that my coach employs for my Ultra training to nuance fat oxidation which is a far more economical way of fueling the body for long efforts such as an ultramarathon rather than a reliance on glucose. Think going for a long run nibbling on a bag of cashews versus drinking a sugar Monster energy drink and trying to become one with the squirrels.

This is where the confusion , I have and had around fasting, intermitted fasting , religious fasting seems to run aground. Is The jury is well and truly out, and is there perhaps many pros and cons to this form of weight loss, and or performance benefit. In the same study as quoted above 1. “Our review of the literature suggests that there is little evidence to support the notion of endurance training and fasting-mediated increases in fat oxidation’’ So it works, but yet studies have shown does it really work. Still with me ?

And what is really fasting, when i was running around at approx 15 plus stone in a previous life was i really running in a fasted state with food albeit terrible in my system from the night or evening before. Compared with Mr Mc Knight who had a final meal then knocked out a cool 160kms.

So why bother you may ask, well in my opinion it has some merit. Many studies have shown little to no effect but yet i ran just over 17.08 kms in 1:34 burning 826 calories in the process with only my buff for cover in what was Baltic storm Bella conditions. If anyone had passed in a wrapped up vehicular state giving me a side eye or eye to the sky. I would have implied I am doing this as for character building purposes, but deep down I know and Mr Mc knight (may) know that maybe as humans we are supposed to be running or did run for long distances in these fasted or intermittent fasted states. With many questions in my own mind, well how long can one run without food for ?

If you are still reading and wondering how does this apply to you, well read the below study yourself and make up your own mind. Perhaps, It will have little or no effect on your weight loss and or fitness journey. But,is it callousing your mind and maybe strengthening your own resolve by completing that 1km,2km,3km,4km,5km, whatever km run with only the kick of caffeine to get you out the door.

My own Yoga philosophy instructor, another Michael but an Irish version. Mentioned that food or fasting is the first real test of resolve and hence why many philosophies to religions have elements. We all may know someone who only drank the ‘’Black Tay’’ in Louth Derg , this may help them become or feel closer to a more divine presence. Which in fairness is also quite cool and uplifting. And in some respects I could have been in a similar state this morning as stripped away bar my skins top. (I’m well ‘ard but not nuts) I felt uplifted before after and during hail showers with a north wind.

So maybe fasting has some merit.

Enjoy.

Barry

1. Exercise Training and Fasting: Current Insights. Zouhal et al

vegan yolks

If you may have followed along over the last number of years you may have noticed that like many I have a long standing battle with keeping my race weight down.

Murphy’s law, the sport I want to be competitive in, suits a mesomorph that simply is not my frame. 

It Is frustrating competing with lighter athletes, and to try and compete further I have tried everything from Paleo to veganism.

With many fall downs, changes , and even a year where I was at my heaviest I won the long distance Ironman below in Kerry – go figure 藍

Still at the start of each new season I try and improve as much as possible.

This particular season having done the 64 km Kerry way lite and wanting to do the 200km Kerry way ultra next September I thought on top of keeping my vegan-ish buzz going I would also start calorie counting to see numbers on what I was eating and burning off to as close as possible.

Coach Steve reckoned more peanut butter and fat was needed, and Coach Darren reckoned I needed to look at protein levels.

Both as always were right.

Using @myfitnesspal pretty much daily over the last number of months I have found it great. If I am maxing out what I am supposed to eat on any given day – I stop eating. It also gives me a handle on my macros levels.

And it showed that I was eating about 20% too much carbohydrate. And not enough protein approx 10/11% on average.

I added a vegan protein based supplement, which brought protein levels up to about 15% , added peanut butter that gave me a bit more. But I realised that I was not getting sufficient protein in and decided to bite the bullet and go back on eggs ! 讀So, not vegan anymore. But hitting better protein macros numbers up to and around 20% more regularly and waaay more easier.

And within a week I dropped a further kg. It may be connected to protein levels as training volume was pretty much the same.

I write this post, because I think on a personal level veganish-egg-calorie counting works for me.

Because Veganish makes me cook more nutritious food on a daily basis. Eggs help with protein levels. And calorie counting brings it all together and keeps me dialled in for training and race day.

This works for me, and I am happy with it. I now have a healthier relationship with food. I’m not to anal, I may have the odd scone or heaven forbid Hiney’s coleslaw !

Lots ask for nutrition advice, and I am reluctant to give it. Mainly because I am not a qualified nutritionist or dietician and there is a heavy disclaimer with this blog as it is my opinion and delivery.

If I can offer advice, it is to get in contact with a qualified nutritionist and or Dietician. Not a spoofer, and find out what is best for you , your body, lifestyle and goals.

In a way it is all very obvious. But we all know how hard this is. Irrespective of you’re walk of life.

I am very concious and have heeded messages from the likes of @evidentiallyyou who may disagree on the fitness industry folks like myself “telling” people about “having” to lose weight.

I really do not want to do this. But for those who may need help exploring the above with the right person or persons may work for you.

It’s a fine line we are all on. And I hope I have stayed the right side of it.

Barry