I’ve never “stepped down” to a 24 hour race before, but after running for nearly 72 hours in the “Across the Years” race over the turn of the year, it is now a bit more “sprinty”! So I find myself sitting in Holland, preparing for Saturday’s race, with less trepidation than usual for such a challenge.
This year’s 24 hour running world championship has crept up on me a bit. Even though I had entered it into my provisional list of events to target for 2013, I didn’t really start focussing on it until April. Until then I had just been endeavouring to get entered into the UTMB, and organising other things in the “real” world. It wasn’t until April that word start to filter through that Athletics Ireland was going to send a team, and that I would be selected. And with that, it started to become my immediate focus event.
Training has been going well this year. I’ve been putting a much bigger emphasis on pure running than I have been in many years. My cycling and kayaking are probably suffering as a result. But so far all my big target races are all ultra runs of various kinds, so this hasn’t become a worry yet. I’ve made a deliberate effort to push out my long slow runs (LSRs) every weekend. I now try and run at least one 5 hour run each weekend, and adding another 4 hour+ run on back to back days if scheduling permits.
In the last month I’ve added in at least one evening per week of speedwork (interval training) to sharpen up my running, and hopefully add increased speed along with better endurance. In a similar timeframe the IMRA summer hill running season has begun, and I have raced each of the Wednesday evening hill races. I was going to use this as an indicator of how much pure speed I had lost with my major emphasis on endurance training (I hadn’t managed to run the summer league for the last 2 years as I was recovering from various broken bones, so had lost touch a bit with how my short distance speed was holding up). I was very happy to discover it was holding up much better than I expected, an I was still able to give hill running stalwarts like Peter O’Farrell and Brian Furey a good race.
So with a lack of broken bones, a good body of endurance work, and some recent speed work completed the main thing I seem to be missing coming into the race is a good excuse! I’ll have to think of one before the start!
I’m writing this blog in one of the athlete’s villages where various teams are staying. There are lots of fit looking people wandering around in their national gear. Most of today was spent travelling, and we’re now chilling out a bit for the evening. Tomorrow we’ll have the pre-race technical meeting, along with the traditional athletes parade. The most important task of the day from my perspective though will be to shop for race food. Once that’s done the only tasks of note will be to get some food in at the pasta party (Oh how I’d prefer a steak party!) and get a good night’s sleep. With the race not due to start until mid-day on Saturday it should be relatively straightforward to start the race well rested.
This year’s Irish team consists of John O’Regan, Eddie Gallen, Dan Doherty and myself. There has been a bit of last minute swapping around to get our support crew together (organised by John), but we are now ably supported by John Collins, Kevin Belton and Gary McConville. That’s a fantastically strong crew, so there’s another excuse out the window!
The runners make for an interesting team! John set his PB of nearly 230km at last year’s world championship, making him the 3rd best Irish 24hour runner ever. He has been improving year on year for the last few years. Eddie is called “steady Eddie” by the rest of us for a good reason. He rarely fails to exceed 200km, and has also been steadily pushing out his PB. Possibly the most interesting runner to anticipate is Dan. He has come within a minute of breaking the Irish 100km record twice in the last month. His recent performance at the European championships was the best Irish 100km run of all time in my opinion, given the difficulty of the course. He hasn’t run a pure 24 hour race yet (although he tells me he has run for 30 hours a few tears ago at the Lakeland 100 race), so it’s going to be extremely interesting to see how he takes to the longer event.
There are quite a few athletes of note entered in the field. The 2 most notable for me are the two world record holders (and in my opinion greatest ultrarunners of all time) Yiannis Kouros and Lizzy Hawker. It’ll be a pleasure to be running in the same race as these legends. My old friend and competitor from the “Across the Years” race, Joe Fejes, will also be competing. It’ll be good to see him again.
Nearly time to head off to sleep now….