In April 2012 I accompanied my wife, Liz, to Galway as she was running the Connemara Marathon. I took my bike and planned to cycle as much of the route as possible and assist with drinks/food. This was the first time I’d experienced the rugged beauty of Galway and so I decided to return the following year in order to run the 39.3-mile Ultra.
I signed up as soon as registration opened and started planning my winter training and warm-up races, with a target of 7 April 2013. As this was my first road marathon, my plan centred on building up my endurance running ability. I’d read that I would need to run 80-100 miles/week with long runs in excess of 25 miles. Personally I believe that too many endurance runners suffer overuse injuries due to an over-emphasis on high weekly junk mileage. In a bid to reduce the risk of injury, I supplemented some long runs with long cycles, while working in the Pilates studio on total body strength/flexibility/balance.
My build up races were two half-marathon races in March. In the first of them the extra weekly run mileage supplemented with cross training resulted in a four minute improvement (1 hour 17 minutes) on my half marathon PB. I was now convinced that total body conditioning and cross training was the right choice. My typical week involved a long run/cycle, tempo run, 2/3 bike sessions, at least three 1 hour Pilates sessions and body weight exercises i.e. press-up, step-up, step down, single leg squats, lunges, etc.
Headwinds and hills
We hired a cottage not far from the start/finish area so I could eat and sleep well before the event. The race day got off to a good start with a race briefing and an inspirational talk from the race director, Ray O’Connor. I’d prepared my drinks and deposited them in the drop boxes for miles 10, 22 and 32. We were then bussed a mile down the road to the start and at 9am off we went. The weather was dry but with a headwind from mile 22-28, and hills from mile 26-37.
It was difficult to maintain a steady pace over the hilly last 13 miles but the half marathon runners helped me stay focused. During the final miles I feel mental strength combined with improved running economy got me through the tough sections.
I finished in 5hr 16 minutes, 12th overall. A nice touch was a handshake and a few words from Ray at the finish who had also made it onto the course at various points to give much needed encouragement to the Ultra runners. There was also a separate Ultra finish area. Liz helped me to refuel in the hotel where we were treated to soup and sandwiches. It wasn’t long till I got back to the cottage for some more refuelling and a well-deserved bath. We then made it back to the finish to see our club mates finish their races.
The days after the event I continued to follow the same conditioning and Pilates sessions, which aided my recovery. In order to reduce injury risks I’d recommend that all triathletes include an element of conditioning into their weekly plans.
The Connemara event is very well organised and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to run an ultra, the support is second to none… who knows, I might go back next year, just don’t tell the wife!
You can read more about Connemara here www.connemarathon.com
To see Tom’s league-topping myTri stats, head to training.220triathlon.com/leaderboard