Saturday, 23 October 2010

Amsterdam Half Marathon 2010

17th October 2010. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. A return to a delightful city. The last time I was here I ran something like 2 miles. It was just a training run while I visited but I've returned to compete and run my second half marathon of the year. Compete is a term I use loosely but more a competition with myself. I want to show improvement. I was certain I would. Budapest was poor. I struggled and I'm better than that. It taught me a few things and it was time to put them to good use. This is a grind, a battle of my physical ability and my mental ability. Both suffered in Budapest and this would see me progress and improve. Budapest taught me I could do this however I felt. I felt less nervous going into this which would have an effect. I was much less anxious.

Watching the marathon before hand was a nice preparation for me. It took my mind off my own preparation and focused me on the efforts of the marathon competitors. I knew how I would approach this one. I would pace myself for the start particularly. I would sit far back in the field and run at my pace. My failing in Budapest was my start point, my early pace and my hunting down everybody in sight. My start was quick in Budapest. 5 minute kilometers for the first 5 and 6 kilometers. In Amsterdam my pace would be consistent. Starting off at a slower pace and working my way up the field comfortably and gradually. And so it was. A strange start as unlike in any other race I didn't get a much of a run onto the start but this may have been more due to the numbers I was in amongst. My start was incredibly comfortable and even enjoyable and that made such a difference. In actual fact my running pace was no different to Budapest even if it felt so. I've checked my times and I was running 5 minute kilometers again. I was clearly more comfortable.

The route isn't particularly spectactular actually. Its hard to notice when your running but when you are running comfortably its easier to enjoy the surroundings. Much of the run is out of the city and the business district. The number of ad hoc food, drink and wet sponge stops was incredible and something I hadn't seen before. Children left their hands out for a tap from as many runners as possible and held out biscuits, water and 'vet sponsers'. The atmosphere was very special. I tend to be quite engaged with the crowd during a race and so I'll incite a crowd into raising the support and Amsterdam duly obliged. Nothing more than I expected from a wonderfully warm and friendly city. It was fantastic to hear my name called. References to Ireland and Donegal and it really drove me on. It helped me through the pain when pain shot through my ever fragile knees. My knees from past injury worry me so much. Those vital joints that have suffered so much and creak and moan when pushed beyond what they consider a reasonable work out. They know they call the shots and can decide when enough is enough. And running along the river, as a fellow Irish runner commented on my strenght of running, they poked ironic humour and almost called it a day. I defied them. I had to. Nothing would get in the way of a wonderful run and a wonderful occasion.

The support in Vondelpark and those last kilometers into the Olympic Stadium were amazing. I was as comfortable as I could be and enjoying myself to a degree. This is the point for me, those last few kilometers, which I find drag on and on. It was only those last 2 kilometers that really hurt this time around. I felt ill entering the stadium. The final effort, the final push to the finish and that took the shine off my race but overall I had a decent race, a strong race and bar physical exhaustion I had enough left to punch the air and a acclaim fantastic support in the stadium.

A few pints in the Stadium after the race brought a wonderful day to an end. A time to reflect on the race and a seasons running. I am now inspired and driven toward Paris. I have improved and I know this won't be easy but I have it within me to push on. I have so much work to do but this is now possible. My last race of a long year and a long number of miles put in on the road. Its been a great journey but that was just the warm up. The real work lies ahead. Thats worth considering over a few pints. Ok maybe more than a few. The door of Molly Malone's swings open.

Results Amsterdam Marathon 2010
Bib number25760
NameBrendan Grufferty
5 km25:51
10 km53:11 (27:20)
15 km1:20:35 (27:24)
Net time1:54:14
Gros time1:49:36
Speed11,082 Km/Hour
DistanceMizuno Half marathon
Place4156 / Mrecr

Friday, 22 October 2010

Budapest Half Marathon 2010

The idea of a half marathon would generally have caused me to guffaw and go why bother?. A marathon is a marker. A significant achievement. A half marathon is well just getting half way there. Well not really actually. Both races were important measures of my progress to date and probably the reality check I need to consider doubling the distance for a full marathon. My first full marathon. Scheduled for Paris next year. I'm comfortable at this distance now. Not in Budapest. I struggled in Budapest. I enjoyed Amsterdam. I struggled on the last kms but generally I felt stronger and fitter and more capable. That feeling of been that close to throwing up is horrendous. I got it entering the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam on Sunday. What a way to finish a race though. I've never finished like that. I've generally staggered over the line. I pushed myself this time because I had the last few ounces of energy available. I punched the air, riled the crowd into greater noise and support and milked a wonderful feeling. My time was better than Budapest. That was obvious without even checking the time. I am now comfortable in my ability to run that distance. I'm pacing myself better now.

Budapest 1:59:30

My first competitive half marathon. Not having a measure, other than my first Kilomathon Run, I really had no idea how this would go. I didn't doubt I'd finish it. The route was incredible, the weather stunning and the atmosphere? Well very very disappointing. In a race of that distance you need a crowd to encourage you on and it didn't really ever get going on this one which was disappointing. The language barrier may have been a significant reason as to why I didn't feel the support. My first 5km were wonderful. Mostly downhill to the Danube from Varsloglit Park and that accounted for the quick pace. I struggled for about 2 or 3 km along the river and by the half way point I was really questioning my ability to continue. When your in that mode you don't enjoy it. Your head is saying no, your body screaming know and your heart just doesn't want to let up. I have to finish it and I will but this is not enjoyable. I revived at the drink stops and took on quite a few isotonic drinks and glucose tablets to boost my energy and strenght. In the end they got me through. I've established from this race that those last kilometers are hell. You know the finish is in site and your body wants it to finish now and its a case of dragging yourself across the line but its a long long last few kms. Significantly in this one I told myself around Parliament at about the 15km mark that I'm nowhere near ready for a marathon and if thats what came out of this race then thats something. I've since seen the photo's of me crossing the line and they are not good and I am certainly not making then publicly available. The afters was amazing. The race started in Varsoglit Park and in front of one of Budapests most famous thermal baths at Szchezni (sp) and in glorious afternoon sunshine recovery took the form of a few hours in the bath to ease my aches and pains away. They must have worked as I walked a further 15 miles that very evening.

So what do I take from running in Budapest then. Well there are a couple of things I've learned.

1. I really need to enjoy these distance runs. They are a battle of mind and body and I need to strenghten to that. I'm always told about my pace issues. Going off too quickly and then fading. A competitive edge that I somehow must control. Its a longish haul and there's no point going hammer and tongs from the start. I need to pace it otherwise I am going to struggle at this distance and I'll never run marathon distance.

2. Earphones. I need music. I need something to keep me going. To entertain me. Otherwise all I hear is foreign tongue and the screaming of my own thoughts. Music paces me, gives me perspective of time and keeps my mind off the pain and struggle.

3. I will have bad days as well as good days. I am a better runner than this effort suggested. I now have a measure of this distance and I need to move beyond in and to the next level in terms of mileage. I will do it but its going to be hard work and I cannot take it for granted at all. There has been no wasted effort in attempting half marathons. They were particularly important as they grounded me to where in reality I actually am. Next up then Amsterdam.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Blogging : The reason for.

2010 has been predominately about half marathons for me and the plan at the outset has and continues to be the same. A focus on half marathons and a move to marathon distance in 2011. It looks like my luck isn’t changing any time soon. I haven’t got a place in London 2011 which makes the decision to apply and accept Paris 2011 a wise one in hindsight. I’ve run a 16 mile distance and so having completed that in March of 2010 psychologically doing 13 miles in a half marathon really isn’t a problem for me. Or so I thought. I chose to run my first half marathon as an international event and so a combined holiday break and an opportunity to compete and so it was off to the very beautiful jewel of the Danube that is Budapest. I was meant to visit Budapest 5 years ago on an European Inter-rail trip and I missed out as I was ill at the time. So it was nice to finally make it there, albeit on my own. I struggled in the race and the psychological battle I waged with myself throughout was heated and very very volatile. Its maybe a measure of where I’m now at that I felt disappointed with my time despite actually achieving a sub 2 hour time , albeit by a mere 30 seconds. I’ve since seen the picture of my finish and its best explained by referral to the fact I actually thought I’d finished post 2 hours. All that pain in effort for what? The biggest disappointment was the fact I felt my training merited so much more. I’d trained well and put in the miles but again stupidly went off way to quickly and tried to move up the field. I did so for the first 6km’s and I had too major lull’s at around 11km and 17/18km and I thought I hadn’t it in me to continue.
And so to the blog then. The gear shift required to move from half marathon to full marathon is monumental. Physically and psychologically. I’ve fought many battles in my life. After 30 years there are bound to be wounds and scars and I’m no different. I’ve fought my health concerns, I fought bullying in the workplace in my time in Donegal from the most pig ignornant excuse of a ‘team leader’ I’ve never had the misfortune to encounter and thankfully have never encountered his like since, I’ve fought loss and change. I’m proud to say I haven’t lost a battle yet. I don’t lose.  That’s the mental steel required to do this and If I say I’ll do something then I’ll do it however hard that is. This is the hardest physical and mental challenge I will ever face. It’s bizzare to have fought so many battles but then to chose to create the hardest one imaginable. There’s nothing beyond marathon distance for me other than equaling it in moving on from here. And this is hard, this is a grueling prospect. I’m in transition currently from training at half marathon distance to now needing to duplicate that distance. My fitness is good, I have a few more pounds to lose but I feel good. The test now is to increase my distance training runs up to 20 miles and take it on from there. This requires dedication like I’ve never known before, diet, training, and work/life balance. I’m coming to terms with that too. I am slightly worried of myself. I have always been aware that on every single run, training at 5 mile distance or 11 mile distance I will always declare ‘I f***ing hate running’. Today I finish work at 3.30 and I’m in to change and I have a 14 mile run planned. I want to do it in sunlight naturally. I’ll have the music on and I’m out there and I’m actually excited about it. It’s a favourite route. It’s out of Derby and into the beautiful countryside ever closer to the Derbyshire Dales and I love it out there. Its place names like Quarndon, Kedleston and Duffield and Darley that excite me as this is my favourite route ever. It’s not an easy route but I absolutely love it and it’s a route that holds very happy memories.

And so to the blog. The blog is the confirmation I need to do this and what it’s actually like to do this. There will be great moments, there will be really tough times and I hope lots of fun and interesting tales to share along the way. The blog for me sets down my plan to fulfill a promise, to fulfill my decision, whether a wise or foolish one at that and to see this through and share that experience. I hope to raise some money for charity as I have tended to do in the past and that will in itself inspire me to achieve this. I consider myself fortunate to have some wonderful support behind me and I hope that will continue. For the most part this is a solo effort, an isolated, long and at times lonely road. Just me, my MP3 and the open road.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Setting up a new club in Derby

On moving to Derby in September 2008 I was no doubt missing Ipswich and that Lunch Time Running Club as I my seat was hardly warm when I set up a club at Derby City Council. As a Council in Ipswich we all worked under one roof so it was easier to organise. In Derby the council offices were spread across the city so running from Friary Street and eventually Queen Street Leisure Centre suited a small number of people. I think John Shiel was possibly the first man to respond. In fact he was already in running gear and wanted to go off that lunch time. John is most famous for holding the honour as the only man ever to eat a full 3 course meal at the National Famine Museum in Roscommon, Ireland. Somewhere the irony was lost on John. It still is.

Meeting John proved pivotal in driving on my passion and energy for running. In fact I had some catching up as it was often said that John woke in his running gear daily. His enthusiasm and energy was infectious. His genorosity in forsaking his own running to bring me up to speed was greater support than ever I could have wished for. I'd like to think I've caught up. John is a good runner, a marathon veteran and in much greater condition than me and to be mixing it with this vlass of runner is no mean achievement.

I remember a run at Carsington Water in Derbyshire one morning in 2008 or 2009. A beautiful route but at 8 or 9 miles this was a struggle for me. The pace was relentless and but for John and Vicky waiting on me I would most likely have given up.

The road toward steady progress has been very much 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. At times I've felt I'm enjoying running but I've needed the push and while running on my own became less comfortable running in a group presented its own difficulties and I often struggled with pace.

Somehow and somewhere the passion was infused and I took on the responsibility myself. This was very much linked to stress in my life. A busy work schedule and studying part time contributed significantly to my need to manage the outlet for this stress. Having returned to playing gaelic football in Nottingham in 2009 this was particularly influential in improving my fitness but more particularly my strenght and stamina and while I continued to run when I could, most of focus was on Gaelic Football training which culminated in an Intermediate League Title win.

It started with a....

Lunch time running club at work when I joined Ipswich Borough Council in the Autumn of 2007. I had always run for fitness, or at least for fitness in the previous 7 years. I remember running at 15 and been able to run forever and with incredible strenght and pace. The ageing process definetely impacts and at 28 I was feeling slower, heavier and much less able. In fairness I had put on about 2 stone above my regular weight while training via running, playing football, coaching kids as I did at the time and generally always getting out when I could. The difference in running then was running something around the 3 or 4 mile distance. Now a regular training run is anything from 8 to 12 miles depending on what time I can fit in.

The lunch time club was wonderful. As a new comer to England it was a chance to meet new people and get involved and it broke up the working day. It was a chanceto get away from the desk and stretch the legs at work and though it was a longer than usual lunch break it was great to run with people again. That was something I hadn't ever done. Running was always about going solo for me. Maybe thats why I was never pushing out my distance and I sat in the comfort zone when it came to running.

With lunch time running came the chance of some competition and it took the form of a series of Five Races in the Suffolk Friday 5's. Great event and for me I remember doing a 48 minute race in one, possibly at Kirton. I finished with my best finish at Stowmarket I think and there was suddenly a huge leap in my running progress over a period of 6 weeks. The competition really helped me on. I was brought down to earth on a road race at Great Bentley. The road was damp with heavy showers and I took off way too quickly in pursuit of an improved time once again. This was my achilles heel and continues to be a problem to this day. I go off way too quickly, even now. I finished the series well and that was the start of me developing the running bug and I took that bug with me on my move north and west to the Midlands and Derby.

Budapest Half 2010

Budapest Half 2010

Amsterdam Half 2010

Amsterdam Half 2010