Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Race report Dublin marathon 2013!

Clock watching, hoping it would end!
It's taken me a while to write this post because my marathon didn't really go to plan and I had another bad day on the road. The last bad day I had was at the half marathon when I felt a bit ill and really tired, I dug deep that day and finished in a respectable 1hr32mins. That wasn't the case for this race report.

The overall training for Dublin hadn't been ideal, right around when I should have been planning a training schedule I was moving country. I was running every day at that time and feeling really good. However the weeks and months that followed didn't quite go to plan. My life was changing day to day. I was developing myself as an osteopath and working in different clinics across the city. Any training regime I had was impossible to keep because work demands were my top priority. I did a lot of running but there was no structure, I don't think I did any specific speed or interval sessions.
I ran every day for 72 days covering almost 700km during May-August and this gave me a great fitness base. Without any real prep I ran a PB in the Dublin Rock n' Roll half marathon. This gave me a confidence (perhaps a cockiness) that I had become a better runner, that after all was why I did the run streak.

Tildy and her twin sister!
Brotherly hug for a birthday boy!
I took over an osteopathy clinic the week before the marathon. We celebrated my sons 2nd birthday on the Friday afternoon of that week by having family and friends over, I stayed up late. The next day my sister got married, I had a super busy morning followed by the ceremony and a fantastic night of celebrating, I stayed up very late and drank more than 1 glass of wine. We stayed the night in the hotel had breakfast with my family the next day and drove 2hrs to race registration, registered and picked up my swag bag. We drove home, I dropped my wife off and immediately drove to the airport to collect some friends from London that had come to stay with us for a few days.That night I had 2 social beers and reminisced about London life with good friends.The next morning was race day. And I felt good!

I felt good at the beginning of the race and confident that I'd run under 3hrs20min. I thought a sub 3hr10min was unrealistic after partying at the wedding 2 nights before so I ran with the 3hr20pacers. The pace felt easy and from about 3-4km I was tempted to take off and run at a more comfortable albeit faster pace. I didn't because I knew my pre race preparation had been below par. Plus I needed to PEE really bad, which is strange for me.
I upped my pace to gain some ground with the notion of slipping back in after a PEE stop. I did and my plan worked. I settled back in and once again the pace seemed a bit slow. I needed to PEE,,, AGAIN!!!
I upped the pace again and implemented the same plan which worked, when I settled back in the pace still seemed a bit slow and I was feeling really cold all of a sudden even though I was sweating. I began to run a more comfortable pace and slowly made my way up the road away from the 3hr20min pacers. I was still feeling slightly cold and I needed to PEE,,, yes, again. I stopped and relieved myself for a third time having never need to do so before in a race. Overall I was still feeling good and the miles clicked away until the 20 mile point. I passed the banner for 20 miles and then just stopped.....

I'm not sure why, at the time it seemed like a good idea! I don't remember feeling that bad before I stopped. I had been fuelling with raisins and sweet potatoes and I wasn't hungry or bonking. I think I was exhausted, I think on a subconscious level I knew before the race even stated that I wast going to make it and now just after 20 miles I had stopped and I didn't want to continue. I needed to PEE again and I was feeling really cold, I was hoping I could find my friend who I knew was watching somewhere around 21 miles. I was out, I decided after seeing another competitor receiving medical attention that I'd DNF. I just wanted to go home.
I walked for about a mile and thought about life, family and friends. I envied my sister and her husband, they were just about to set off for a cruise around the Caribbean while I was cold and lonely while surrounded by thousands of people, the crowd were great and the encouragement got me going.
I did a few maths calculations and decided to stick it out. I was past the place my friend said he'd be and I didn't see him. So if I ran slowly I could still post my third fastest marathon time, which would mean making it back before 3hrs45mins. I thought of the 10,000 or so competitors that would be delighted with that time. I stuck it out but it was tough, I was cold, shivering and I needed to PEE. 6 times in total I stopped to PEE during that race and when I got home I discovered I had a bladder infection, which probably added to the pre race exhaustion, the shivers and the decision to stop.

I finished in 3hrs40mins. I collected my medal and made my way home. I was happy I finished and felt ok once I showered and put on some extra layers. The next day my body felt good, this, was the clear indication that I hadn't hit the wall at the 20 mile mark. Not all decisions to stop are due to physiological walls that people run into! I had been on a plant based diet for the 2 weeks leading up to this race and I attribute this to lack of pain the day after the race.

Run fast, run long but most of all RunSensible.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Green Juice!

Picture taken from
I've been drinking green juice daily for almost 6 months now. If a day passes where I don't get a chance to make one I feel my body craving it, it's weird!
At the moment I'm eating strictly vegan and will do for the remaining 13 days leading up to the Dublin City Marathon. What does it mean to be Vegan? Well it's probably better reffered to as being plant based. So all the foods I am consuming do not contain any animal products, animal flesh or animal waste. I am choosing to do this from a purely performance stand point, the performance benefits I will explain in another post. Since I'll be eating wholey plant based food it is inevitable that I will be juicing every day and sometimes twice a day so I thought it would be a good idea to share the resources I use.

Anytime I mention a green smoothie or juice around family and friends, I get quizzed! Most people snub their nose at the thought of the texture or taste but believe me, if it is done right these things are delicious. And of super value to an athlete!

So here are a few of my go to resources when deciding what to juice.

One of my favourite web sites is and on that site I came across this story. I found it quite inspiring, although I don't share any of the background story with this guy. The inspiration came from the power of the food.

There are lots and lots of articles on the mindbodygreen site about juicing but this one I found most helpful and really easy.

My wife bought me this really cool book 'The Green Smoothie Bible' just after I started. She waited about a month for me to give up or for the fad to wear off. Once I cracked the month and she realised I hadn't gone mad she gave me this as a gift one day. It is a good purchase because it will tell you what to juice and when depending on the seasons and what fruits are available.

My go to site for all things nutrition is if you have a question you can bet there is a small video answering that question. But better than that, you can also bet that the video is evidence based not some hoodo voodo. Here is one of my favourite videos on juices and smoothies.

I'll end this post by stating the 3 things I put in every juice or smoothie I make.

1. Spinach or kale. I'm not mad on the texture of the kale juices so I usually go with spinach. Why? I've worked in the health and fitness industry for 15 years and have learned that if a clint or patient begins a question with "what foods can I eat to ensure I'm getting enough...........", the answer is always Green leafy veg! It dosen't mater if the question ends with, vitamin A, B, or C, iron, magnesium or selenium, fiber, energy or goodness, the answer is never wrong if the answer is green leafy veg. Vitamin B12 is the only exception.

2. Amla powder. Why? Our bodies are pounded every day by free radical damage. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage. Scientist are warning us that just about everything may be a risk factor in cancer growth. Well the truth is, many cancer growths come from free radical damage not being off set by antioxidants. Get your Amla powder and rest easy that you are doing a lot better than most people.

3. A squeezed fresh lime. I exercise a lot, most days I do something. Citrus fruits are shown here by Dr. Michael Greger of to reduce muscle fatigue and damage. Muscle damage is what makes you slow down.

I hope all this stuff helps!

Run fast, run far but most importantly RunSensible


Friday, 11 October 2013

Marathon fatigue!

Running a marathon is the ultimate test for most runners. There are multiple months of hard preparation and training to get you body up to the condition that is required to complete the feat. Dedication is a word marathon runners know too well, while most people are laying in bed on Sunday mornings recovering from a hang over or sleeping off a busy weeks work, marathon runners are out running anything between 10-22 miles. During the week they are doing recovery runs, interval sessions (on the track) or hill repeats on some obscure road. 

When it comes to race day 'Pace' is the most important factor. Go out too fast and you'll blow up before the finish, begin too slow and a personal best might slip away! So the key questions should be "what causes us to slow our pace?"

The simple answer is fatigue. When the body becomes fatigued our pace will inevitably slow down at the rate fatigue sets in. The fatigue is caused by muscle breakdown. Research has shown by examining blood markers, that an increase in muscle fibre damage is statistically correlated to slowing down in the later stages of a marathon. 

The study looked at the bloods taken from people running a marathon. The people who slowed down the most or lost pace the most also had a higher bio marker for muscle fiber damage. So it's safe to say that the more muscle breakdown you have the slower you become. It makes sense to think that if the muscle structure breaks down, the muscle function will deteriorate, hence the slowing down. This leads us to ask "what is causing the muscle break down?"

The study also showed that the people who had the most muscle breakdown also had a higher glucose utilisation in the earlier parts of the race. You see where this is going? 
The people who were burning the most glucose in the early part of the race were doing so because of an inability to burn fats. The glucose stores are good for about 1 hour to 1hr30mins, once they are gone you need to access the fats, if you can't access the fats your body will take the only available option, muscle proteins. Our body will always opt to burn fats because it's the most economic way of moving. However if you train your body to burn glucose all the time by munching down fancy gels and overpriced energy bars (all of which contain mostly glucose) then you'll have a real problem accessing those fat stores come race day. This will cause a bonk if you are not fueling the sugar addiction throughout the race and will inevitably cause muscle breakdown towards the end.

It's really difficult to run a negative split (run the second half quicker than the first half) in a marathon. Therefore you are going to experience some muscle breakdown or fatigue, which causes the slower pace in the second half. It is estimated that an average individual needs about 300 calories per hour during a marathon to ensure peak performance. If you don't consume the 300 calories your muscles will suffer the defecit. If those 300cals are coming from highly processed refined sugars your chances of bonking or hitting the wall increase dramatically.

How can you minimise the muscle breakdown?

There are two basic ways you can minimise the muscle breakdown. The first is to ensure that your muscles are strong and not easily broken down. A few simple resistance exercises will ensure good muscle strength. Make sure you include both upper and lower body exercises. You should be able to hit most major muscle groups at home so no gym membership is required. I include push ups, squats, ab curls, lunges, plank and pull ups.
It's also a good idea to perform a few plyometric exercises after your interval session especially if it's on a track. Plyometrics involve leaping, jumping and hopping movements.

The second simple way to combat muscle breakdown is to train your body to burn fat. Quit the sugar, especially on a long run. Try using bananas, sweet potatoes or raisins instead of gels. Stock up on complex carbohydrates or low glycemic carbs before heading off on long runs and try sticking to water as a way of re hydrating. This will release glucose into your muscles at a much slower rate, this will enable your body to burn fats due to low insulin levels. In the presence of insulin fat burning is almost dormant.
During the week be mindful of the sugars you are consuming. Try and opt for whole food sugars such as fruit and vegetables as opposed to refined sugary snacks and drinks. 

Thats a lot of info to consume but be midful of what you out in your mouth, how you train and what you desired goals are, then all these points are easily achieved.