Paleo Racing – Becoming a Caveman

A beautiful crisp, frosty, Autumn morning saw me up early and off to Aillwee Caves just outside Ballyvaughan in Co. Clare for what is my first outing as a trail / hill runner in a race.

The drive up to the car park and registration does absolutely nothing to dispell the mounting concerns / disbelief about the race profile for the morning.

Look at the profile.

We will climb in excess of 250m over the ecourse of 4k with the majority of the climbing being about 225m over 2k. Of course we get to descend too! Which should be fun.

There was a total of 48 willing souls ready at the start line, all eyeing each other anxiously as previous winning times were announced. Not so much eyeing up competition as to identify was the culprit in our midst and not to be standing in his / her way at the start.

Count down from 5, 4, 3, 2..1 and off we went. Down the avenue from the cave entrance to the front gate,  having ‘large bones’ helps with the descending as gravity assists and while watching the footing on the wet tarmac in notorious slippy trail shoes (great off road, not so great on road) made it safely down and settled into a nice rhythm as we ran along the base of the hill steadily ascending towards the bottom of the climb.

Now, like hitting a wall, the bodies in front of me seemed to stop and everyone started walking. The brave and silly might try continue running but with heart bursting out of your chest and lungs gasping for air you don’t have a chosice. Hands on knees and just stride steadily up, up, up and up again. There were a couple of respites where you could walk upright and stretch your legs for a couple of strides. By the time I got to the top I had christened these respites as Landings on the ‘Devils Staircase’.

Top of the ‘Devils Staircase’ – Picture by Chris Deakin

Towards the top one or two lads passed me, trotting along while I remained walking. Sure enough there was no major gain and by staying steady I was ready at the top of the hill to run again.

Race your own race, as the experienced heads would tell you.

The view from the top was spectacular. I didn’t hang around long to take the view in but it is amazing. The descent was a steady decline across the ridge line of the hills through fields with plenty of cow pats to dodge along the way.

I caught the two guys that passed me and knew I was sitting top 10 in the field at that stage. Looking over the shoulder at the turnaround I could  see bodies strung out along the whole ridge line. There was one new outline that had passed the lads so I felt the pressure coming on. Around the 10k mark we started to drop outta the sky again. This time it was muddy! Cattle had cut up the trail on Friday evening and it was a mudbath. There was no clean line to follow and it was tricky to find decent footing. With the mud and grass creating an extra hazard by hiding nice sized rocks you could easily put a foot astray or trip over and end up faceplanted in the muck.

At the bottom we crossed an open paddock and the first thought in my head is “If there’s a bull in this field you’re done for!” I was wearing a bright orange Saucony top.

Across the field and back onto the avenue, up the hill. It should only be 1k from here to the finish but it was a tough kilometer. We wound our way up, down and around a very technical trail through the woods and gardens. Passing the craft village the temptation to stop in wonder was strong. Time to look back later.

Bursting out of the woods at the top it was only a short jaunt to the finish area. With nothing left in the tank it was a very subdued uphill, crossing of the line.

Conor asked me what I thought of that, with a big smile on my face I told him it was the toughest run I’d ever done and that I couldn’t wait to go again, in the afternoon, that is.

Finished 9th in a time of 1:05. Happy days!!

Roll on the timetrial in the afternoon with a run from the caves, Caveman style.

Stop playing with your food!

I’m being deliberately facetious with the Food Pyramid image.

I’m not a dietitian or nutritionist but I do love my food and the odd pint.

While I’m training to try and produce a decent account of myself at events, I am also exercising to get my body weight and composition to a place where I am happy with it.

While I’ve always been active and previously had a very physical working environment, my diet would have been quite ‘convenient’. Eating on the go, quick snacks & coffee through the day and a meal at night. All added up to giving me a decent ‘jiggle factor’. At one stage touching 98.2kg which for a 6′ man is disguisable but not comfortable. I didn’t like the ‘overcoat’ I was wearing.

5/6 years later and a systematic format of run, bike & swim training as well as a healthier diet has made changes, and I’m now more comfortable in my ‘jacket’ but still looking for more subtle changes.

This season I made a change in my overall eating plan. Using body weight and mirror image as a guiding hand, I had a way of establishing an approximate metric on my progress. I was deliberately more structured in my training and when I got to a point where I found there was no change in my metric, I changed my diet.

I read alot and one of the books that has been on my bedside locker is ‘Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance’ by Matt Fitzgerald.

Simple concept, you need fuel in the engine to make the engine go. But you need to be cute about how you fuel the engine to make the most out of the fuel and to stop your body stockpilling fat as a stress reaction to the training and demands on the fuel sources.

Matt gives a lot of background information, explains nutrition hows and whys and how to help it work in your body.

One of the stand out ideas was by fuelling with sugars while training you would replenise glycogen stores with post-session feeding in preference to replenishing diminished fat stores. Your body would be ‘tricked’ into overlooking the fat depletion as there would be less metabolic stress by glusose fuelling.

All of this has been in the back of my mind while training this year.

Around June / July I changed my diet to primarily protein and vegetables. All breads, rice, pasta etc went out the window. The only carbs I allowed myself was porridge as breakfast and that was only after my morning training session which was always fasted and usually about an hour long.

Nutrition goes hand in hand with training and as I was principally training long and mid-effort I found I didn’t need gels or energy drinks, I could just chug away at a nice steady pace.

This notion came to light from reading Barry Murray’s articles and blog based on his own on-going experiments with his body. In essence Barry advocates fat adaptation over a period of time and shows how the body is capable of being trained to burn fat in preference to glycogen thus allowing must more sustainable performance in long endurance events.

With these two, I think opposing concepts in mind, I set out to find out which suited me, my training and my events best of all. Would it be one or the other or a combination of the two?

More to follow….

Race Week -4

Its so much easier to create excuses in hindsight.

20/20 vision looking backwards means all the excuses will be well founded, beyond challenge and appropriate to the lack of action involved.

Last week was a fertile breeding ground for creative excuses but a running disaster.

I’m tired / weary / listless due to lack of sleep / sick children / hard work. (Strike out as appropriate)

Coming off the back of a ‘recovery’ week I found everything got in the way of what was planned as Peak Phase Week 1. While I did the Monday session (Hilly Run 01:10) every other target for the week became something that was either moveable or badly timed.

It had nothing to do with me missing a bit of Va-Va-Voom or not allowing enough time for the sessions to be properly completed. The sessions were badly timed.

I copped out on Wednesday and organised one of the evening trail runs (Return of the Mud) as a replacement for the scheduled easy run. These are great craic and I do like running in the woods. I find the change of foot cadence, stride length and varying ground re-invigourates me and normally helps with my road running mojo.

Thursdays interval session started out well and I’m going to insert the Phases to show how well it was going (pat on the back for me!). I started the session late and knew I would be cramped for time getting in to open up the shop, so packed in as much as I could.

Thursday interval session

The pyramid session needed completion there was a further 3-2-1 to be done with rest intervals, I just didnt allow enough time for sucessful completion. Foolishy I then thought it would be a good idea to stick the balance of the intervals onto the end of Friday’s run.

What a plank!?

In theory it may have worked. I ran the planned recovery run as expected and then stuck the balance intervals on the end so that I was on tired legs. Completely forgot about the potential for carnage during the long run on Saturday.

Like Deja Vu, the Long run was diabolical. I was lethargic (Yes, I was eating & drinking so no issue there) and running the loop back past the house, while normally mentally inspiring, it just inspired me to stop. Sure didnt I have to go into work!

The week that was in it, I banked Sunday as a family day and while considering a 10k a couple of times, I knew it would be just junk to bring my overall week distance up and make me feel better so skip that.

Next week, I promise to be good! Peak Phase 2 and an important week before heading into the taper fortnight. It’ll come good.

Weekly Totals
Duration: 05:54
Distance: 68.5km
Calories: 5226kcal
Sessions: 6

Return of the Mud

Wednesday night brought the return of the mid-week trail and muck runs. This was something that kicked off last Winter / Spring as something different for most, just to vary the training and do something that was a little bit of a change from the normal training runs.

It was also great craic. A bunch of ‘adults’ racing around the woods in the dark with just headlamps for company.

It was a recovery day or easy day of running for me so I enjoyed doing the trails just for the change.

Ground was very wet and there was plenty of slipping and sliding around in the mud. The puddles were easily seen in the dark on account of just being big dark patches on the ground. The problem was where you thought you were stepping on a pile of leaves to find that there was 4 or 5″ of watery muck that just oozed around your feet. Lovely!!

Nice run tonight, greatly enjoyed the adventure and look forward to a winter of splashing around. Keep an eye on our Facebook Events page for dates & times.

7km of running in an hour. Not fast but great, dirty fun.

Race week -5 Recovery week

Not a good sign when I start a recovery week with a sore throat.

This was something that always seemed to happen when I started a taper or just took the foot off the gas, the body breaks down a little.

Home from work and started into some Lemsips to try and avoid the inevitable.


Planned day off from running. Day off training full stop!!


Tempo Run – 15mins easy, 30mins @ 4.45km pace, 10mins easy.
I took my usual route, out and back, felt a bit lethargic, probably down to being generally tired and a bit run down of late. Have been eating well, just broken sleep and busy in work.

Tuesday: 12.03km, 00:59:30, AHR 153bpm, MxHR 168bpm, APace 04:57/km


Recovery run easy – didn’t happen. Kids totally unsettled at night and just not getting rest. Kids seem to have an uncanny knack of falling asleep just at the point when they are aware that daddy is fully awake and precisely at the time when they know he won’t get back to sleep.


Interval Session – Run as 10mins easy effort, throw in 5x5mins at 4.20km pace with 3mins jog recovery in between and 10mins easy

This week seems to be getting to be just a ‘ticking the boxes’ kind of week. Did the session. Put in the work and did it but without the exhuberance of previous sessions.

Managed to pace it nicely too, keeping all the intervals around or under 04:20/km, so one positive to take from the week so far.

Thursday: 11.91km, 00:58:48, AHR 157bpm, MxHR 175bpm, APace 04:55/km


45min – run at easy effort.

Emmm, nope, didn’t.


2 hours – Just run easy and do not worry about pace.

Didn’t happen either another exhausting night and a busy day expected in work. Hope to switch tomorrows easy run to this evening and do the long run tomorrow. That didn’t happen either so just long run tomorrow.


Moved yesterday’s long easy run to this morning and just got up and out for it. Had a decent breakfast and went off with a waterbottle with HIgh 5 4:1 and a single gel for company. Well that and a good shuffle of Ozzy on the iPod. I felt that Ozzy would put a fullstop at the end of this week for me.

Sunday: 24.03km, 01:59:22, AHR 151bom, MxHR 189bpm, APace 04:57/km

Weekly totals:
Duration: 03:57:41 (hh:mm:ss)
Distance: 48km
Calories: 4365kcal
Sessions: 3