This is Mark`s blog published today on www.rte.ie/sport : When I left off the last time I was in the midst of a training block in Auburn, Alabama. Since then I’ve had a pretty crazy four or five weeks, and thinking about how to fill you in on the details is providing something of a challenge.
I think the best thing is to start at the end and somehow work my way back to the start, in probably a fairly haphazard fashion!
So last week I took part in the Olympic torch relay in Dublin. It was incredible! I was nominated by Trinity College as one of two current students competing in this year’s Olympics. I’m currently studying there, but that’s another day’s explanation!
The nomination process started last December and we had to keep quiet about it until the process was finished, which in the end was April. Since then I’ve obviously been excited about it, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect and last Wednesday was something I’ll never forget.
I’ll give you a run through of the day. We met at the Grand Canal Theatre at 8.10am last Wednesday morning with nothing other than the white uniform we were sent.
At that stage I knew where I was carrying the torch, and the time I would do so, but nothing about the logistics.
After the briefing about how the flame was to be passed etc, we were loaded onto a shuttle bus to bring us to our points just ahead of the torch. Another bus was following the relay, collecting us afterwards.
As we drove around the streets of Dublin, I couldn’t believe the number of people out. It really hadn’t dawned on me how big an event this was, and when I was left off the bus in Patrick Street for my leg, I had about a ten-minute wait for the torch to catch up.
I was mobbed by people looking for photographs with the torch. Once I started my leg – by the way, was there another leg that was straight uphill for 300m? – I felt like a rabbit in the headlights as I ran along to masses of people cheering at the side of the road, trying to take it all in.
Once I passed the flame on and got back on the bus it was great to sit with the other torchbearers who had just gone through the same experience, and also to watch as the torchbearers who came after me got on the bus, and to see the look on their faces.
After the relay was over, we were given our torches and attended a lunch in the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
I then attended a function in Trinity with the other Trinity torchbearers. By the time this was all done it was nearly 7pm and I had a track session to do out in Santry!
It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world dragging myself out there, but I did it and the workout went to plan, so it was a good end to an unbelievable day, although I felt pretty wiped afterwards.
That leads me nicely into how training has been going for the last month or so, and in a word: great.
My volume has increased quite significantly, and the danger with doing that is deadening the legs, leaving you feeling sluggish.
However, I think the consistency of my training over the last 18 months/two years is reaping rewards now, as this doesn’t seem to be happening.
Last week I ran 10,000m on track in the Netherlands, and broke my by PB by 11 seconds in a time of 28.33, well inside the qualifying standard for the European Championships in Helsinki at the end of this month.
This was a really encouraging sign for me because training at the moment is very much focused on marathon and half marathon specific paces, and although the 10k pace felt fast during the race, I didn’t seem to tire running it, which is exactly how you want to feel, and I think in a race where I don’t have to do any leading or pushing of the pace, I can go a bit quicker.
I was asked after the last blog how do I determine paces for different races, and I guess part of it is based on previous experience, but if you were to always base it on that you’d never improve, so part of it has to be based on a goal that you decide on.
How those goals get set is something I can talk about again, but for now let’s say it’s a process that happens with input from a number of different people, and can change all the time, depending on how training is going!
I think that, for me, the biggest improvement I have made to my training over the last couple of years is the introduction of regular monitoring and analysis of things like nutrition, strength, blood variables, lactate threshold and other running variables, which allows my coach and I to plan training schedules with as much information as possible.
The Irish Institute of Sport are the people doing all the monitoring and have been fantastic with me in this regard, and I now have a team around me who are communicating with one another about my progress, and in a sport that can be very lonely it’s brilliant to go in there a few times a week, meet the professionals, and also other athletes from different sports.
I could be in the gym at the same time as modern pentathletes, and it’s nice to just be around different sports people, for a different perspective on essentially the same type of lifestyle!
I’m going to leave you with a sample of a few days’ worth of training as a response to a question about some details of my training.
Whenever I see a ‘day in the life’ type article of an athlete, I always think it doesn’t give the whole picture, because that day is probably going to be preceded and followed by a similar day, and it’s that cumulative effect that causes the difficulty! This is an actual few days from a few weeks ago, and I’ve put in a good bit of detail for those who want it.
I’ll update again after the European Championships. Until then – good luck!
Tuesday 15 May: Am: 11 miles total. Track session on my own, done on Tallaght track. 10 x 600m off 90 seconds recovery. 1st 4-5 were 1.39, into 1.36 at the end. Pm: Gym session then 6 miles easy in about 40 minutes.
Wednesday 16 May: Am: 6 miles easy in about 40 minutes. Pm: 11 miles easy in about 69 minutes, followed by gym session.
Thursday 17 May: Long run of 22 miles, divided as 10 miles steady, 5 miles moderate, 5 miles moderate hard (around marathon pace), then 2 steady. 1st 10 done in 57 minutes, then 5 in 26.20 minutes, then 5 in 25 minutes, and last 2 in 12 minutes. Followed by 40 minutes in the gym.
Friday 18 May: Am: 6 miles easy in about 40 minutes. Pm: Gym session then 10 miles in about 66 minutes.