Monday, 29 July 2013

A Case of Mistaken Identity

It happens... We often mistake someone for someone else. When my friend Clair had twin boys two years ago, I would walk into the room and be like "Hey... you..." when I'd see one of the boys. People have often gotten myself and my brother mixed up too so I guess genetics have a lot to play in the case of mix ups.

On Saturday night, I was out in Ennis with some friends at a 30th birthday party. Friends of my Mum & Dad came in and I went over to talk to them. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, How are you keeping?
W: Grand now. How are you finding the pubs in Ireland? 
Me: Ummmmm *looking confused*

It was at this point we realised that he thought I was the birthday boy's Australian other half. We laughed it off but I was left wondered had I over-cooked myself on holidays. Maybe my tan made me look exotic? Hardly, half of Ireland are currently red from all the sun they've gotten over the past three weeks themselves. I'm not that tanned am I?

The same thing happened earlier this week in work. I passed a work colleague I wouldn't know too well in the corridor and I said 'Hey' as I passed. The following day in work, another colleague told me how gobsmacked yer man was and how he didn't know me when I passed. 

It's both flattering and kind-of alarming at the same time how unrecognisable I have become to acquaintances. Of course I see my friends so often they have been with me since I started on the Weight Watchers journey. Both my dad's friend and my work colleague I wouldn't have seen in about a year. In fact, the last time I saw my work colleague was on the now ill-fated Croagh Patrick climb last year when I had to stop for fear I was going to have a heart attack half way up.

11 months later and 97lbs lighter... I can see how easy it would be for someone to not recognise me. I suppose the real case of mistaken identity comes from within me. I'm just left wondering where this person within me has been the past thirty years! The John who eats salads (and enjoys them), the John that worries if he'll have enough time to get in a run after work, the John who gets up early to go for a walk with the dog instead of playing FarmVille (true story - don't judge me!). 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The View from The Other Side

The Renville 5K was on yesterday evening in Oranmore (just a stone's throw up the road from the house). I was considering entering it but decided instead of running a race around my local haunt, I had a better idea... Why not volunteer to help out at the race and see what the view is like from the other side of the run track!

I had emailed the organisers and gotten myself a place on the volunteers list which I was more than happy to do. All I had to do was turn up two hours before the race and stay until the race was over. As I drove home from work yesterday evening, the skies opened and it bucketed down. 'What a manky evening for a run' wasn't the thought that went through my head... it was more like 'What a manky evening to stand around in the same spot for three hours'.

Wrapped up, I arrived at the Volunteer Tent (soaking wet) at 6.30pm where we were all given our marshal's hi-vis jackets and told where we would be stationed. That was it. Our instructions were simple: Keep the public off the race track. Renville Park is a very popular walking spot and is always busy - tonight was no exception.

As we waited by the start line, the other volunteers and I made ourselves busy by telling people to get off the road. If I'm honest I spent most of the time chatting to people I knew. The only proper work I did was when I was drafted in to help the lady set up the Start Line - which we set up the wrong way around and then had to quickly turn 180 degrees about 4 minutes before the race started. Awkward. (That's me in the Yellow Hi-Vis below).

Moving the Start Line (Pic taken from the Maree AC Facebook)

As I was stationed close to the finish line, it was nice to stand at the Start Line and watch the runners all head off. It's very strange watching a race from the side-lines. As you know, I have never spent my life in, on, or around sports of any kind. I don't know what spectators should be doing. So I did what I know best. I positioned myself on the wall well out of harms way and applauded the runners as they took off on their 5K run. 

What was interesting was how 'slow' it all seemed... It took about 5-7 minutes for the last person to cross the start line (there was a good crowd of about 800 there). I suppose when you are in a race, you are only focused on getting yourself out past the crowd and finding your own space and pace, you don't really think about the runners at the front who have already left a cloud of dust behind them or the people behind you. 

 And they're off...

After the last of the participants took off, I made my way over to the post I had been told I would be responsible for... only to find about 4 other marshal's standing there. I decided to put my time to good use so I moved away from the marshals on the corner and moved further up the path to clear the path of spectators and passers-by while we waited for the first of the runners to approach the finish line.

I was less than 500m from the finish line (about half way down the path from the grave-yard car-park to the entrance to the woods). The next 45 minutes were amazing. I watched, applauded, congratulated and smiled at every single person as they came in... I don't think I've ever really appreciated a marshal before - they are just the people there to assist in the smooth running of a race right? Or so I thought...

The amount of people who said 'Thank you' after I clapped or roared 'Well Done' was amazing. Some people smiled, some people remained dead-focused on the finish line but I think from having been on both sides of the race track, I'll never knowingly not acknowledge someone who is shouting words of encouragement.

I was talking to another spectator beside me between the gaps in the crowd coming down the hill toward the finish line about 'stand-byers' etiquette. It seems that it's perfectly normal to call people by their club name as they pass (e.g. Well Done Athenry or Good Man Maree), it also appears to be ok about lying how far away the finish line is (e.g. Nearly there! or Just around the corner!).

The time flew... I clapped every single person who sprinted, ran, jogged or walked past me. I roared a variety of encouraging words. Why? Because every single person be it the young whipper-snapper who flew past me in a blur to the older walkers near the end - every single one of those people have paid money, come out, and completed a 5K. 

I was the person near the end only a few months ago. I may be the person close to the front in a few months time. I am the person who ran past with such focus and determination in their eyes. I am the person who has told themselves that they can do this. I am the person who crossed the finish line looking like they had been dragged backwards through a bush and painted red. I am the person with the headphones who perhaps didn't hear the clapping or shouts of encouragement as they were running  to the sound of their power/motivational tunes.

I could have been the person who never even turned up at the start line. 

I could have always been a spectator. 

I respect every single person who turns up, pins on their bib and tries because running never gets easier, you just get better at it!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

"What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing."

While on holidays last week, I was wandering around the Picasso Museum in Malaga (more so for the escape from the 40 degree heat outside than the culture of it). Picasso was born in Malaga but left when he was young (10). As his place of birth, the city have embraced this artist with a dedicated museum containing many of his pieces donated primarily by this grandchildren. Anyway, I'm digressing... As I wandered around the museum I found myself reading every plaque on the wall and making my own artistic judgments about each piece as I moved from room to room. 

My favourite piece was this one:

Naked with Cat - Picasso

Not because of *adjusts my glasses and sips espresso* 'the artist's provocative use of colours or the juxtaposition of the notions of sleeping and being wide awake at the same time' - but rather it reminded me of... me. Except I am not a lady nor do I have a cat. My reaction to most things in life is emotive. I tend to gravitate towards songs/art/images etc that strike an emotional chord with me. If something makes me smile, recollect a memory, makes me sad or reminds me of someone - that is when I connect with the arts regardless of its medium.

This painting made me smile as I looked at it as it made me think of my dog CJ. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my little white fluffy dog. CJ takes up his nightly occupancy either on or beside me every night as he drifts off to sleep. He doesn't care how uncomfortable his bony paw sticking into my leg makes me feel as long as he is comfortable. I've often woken up in the morning almost diagonal in the bed and there is the little scut curled up in a ball in the place where I should have been sleeping.

Anyway, I have rambled off point yet again so back to the topic in hand. The museum was littered with quotes from and about Picasso. As I stood reading one of them (perhaps in a happy place after just experiencing that painting above), I read the following quote from Picasso which was painted on the wall:

"What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing"

This has stuck with me since reading it, so much so I went back and wrote down the quote so I would remember it. It has been bouncing around in my head since I visiting the museum last Sunday. While I believe hugely in the power of intention, Picasso (fair play to him) has a point. Intention is well and good but if the action is never carried through, what was the effective use of having the intention in the first place?

I cannot get this quote out of my mind... And for that reason Picasso has inspired me to do something... The Dublin Marathon! At lunch time yesterday (after my first morning back at work), I signed up for the Dublin Marathon this coming October. 

My overall intention is to be healthier, fitter and stronger. This, which will be my first Marathon, is an action I can take to bring me even closer making my intention a reality. I can't believe how far I've come in the past year, I've done so much more than I thought was even possible. So why not? Why not strive to complete a Marathon. It is honestly something I had never even considered for myself. Hell, I'd never considered a 5K as possible.

I'm figuring the jump from 21K to 42K can't be as "bad" as the jump from off the couch to 5K. Running is something I really enjoy - and while I am not running this to try qualify for the London/New York/Boston marathon, I am looking forward to running this for me. To push myself, not to my limit, but to raise my own bar which has already jet-rocketed from where it was last year. What one does is what counts...

... and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The dreaded Post Holiday Weigh-In...

We arrived back home from Spain at 3am this morning. Yesterday went by in a blur of buses, airports, planes and taxis but there is a lot to be said to coming home. Holidays are great fun but they are a total split from reality. With no work, no structure to your day and (usually) more money than normal burning a hole in your pocket - it is nothing like home.

Here is a typical conversation between myself and my other half which happened every couple of hours over our holiday:

Me: I'm thirsty
OH: Oh look, they have cocktails on offer
Me: Mojito/Daiquiri/Pina Colada please!

Cocktails on the Beach

As you might have seen in my last post (on Saturday), I was resigned to the fact I had been a little scut on holidays. No running, lots of Cocktails, lots of indulgences. So far it sounds the exact same as last year's Summer Holidays (when I was over 19st)... 

Summer 2012 v Summer 2013

I 100% admit I was scared of today's post holiday weigh-in... I think it was more so the fear of the unknown of being 'out on my own' for 2 weeks. I wasn't tracking, I was eating what I wanted and when I wanted...

I was +1.5lbs on the scale today!

A pound and a half! WTF! I nearly kissed Phil (my WW leader) I was so shocked. And delighted. That was when Phil asked me what was different about this holiday as opposed to last year. That was what got me thinking about all of the positive things I had done on holiday without even giving myself credit for. 

I was thinking about the ice-creams and cocktails, chocolate and desserts I had eaten on holidays but looking back, they were never in excess. Yes I had ice-cream, but it was always the smallest tub. Yes I had cocktails but then moved on to Rum & Diet Coke (less points). Yes I had chocolate/desserts/pastries but always shared it with whomever I was with so I doubt I had a full bar myself.

Another difference this year versus last year was that I made the decision to enjoy what I was eating. One night we went to an Italian and I had a large BBQ chicken pizza (hardly quintessential spanish cuisine!). It was delicious. I enjoyed every slice. Weight Watchers has obviously worked somewhere deep down inside because once I had the pizza, I didn't have another one another night). I had Toastadas most mornings for breakfast (Toast with Tomatoes), Spanish Omelette with Salad at lunch time (Thanks Annette!) and evening dinner was usually Spanish Tapas so although quite small and made to share, maybe it was the number of plates of food that kept coming to our table that threw me off. Instead of chips, I'd have salad/grilled veg accompanying my dinner. These were all decisions I made without any effort. 

All in all, I feel like I completely splashed out for the past two weeks and really in fairness, I probably deserve to be up more than I am. I'm glad to be back at Weight Watchers and I'm back tracking. I've three weeks to get my a*se in gear of my next race (The Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Dublin) so I've plenty to keep me going for the next few weeks.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bless me Father for I have sinned...

It has been one week since my last run... and I'm not even feeling guilty! Maybe it's the heat that's gotten to my head or one too many cocktails. 

I've resigned myself to the fact that my aim to exercise at least every second day has fallen flat on its face but d'ya know what... I'm having a blast on my holiday.

Ice Cream
Vino de Tinto

I know I'll be raging come Tuesday when I'm back home looking at the scales in Weight Watchers but for now I'm too busy checking out the hot men & pastelerĂ­as to worry!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

I've got my bags packed baby and I'm ready to go...

*does a Madonna shimmy* HOLIDAY... CELEBRATE!

I'm so excited - we are heading off on my holidays for two weeks today to Spain & Portugal. I was packing last night and pulled all of the holiday clothes out of the back of wardrobe where they have been gathering dust since last year. 

I threw everything in a black plastic bag destined for the charity shop - My XXL t-shirts & 38in shorts are all gone and have been replaced with 'S' t-shirts & shirts and 30in shorts...

I may not get the chance to update the blog again over the next week or two but know this... I'm determined not to come back heavier than I am heading out on the plane today. 


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

One goal thrived, while another failed miserable - June Review

I had set myself two goals for June, the first focused on strength and cross training, while the second was down to pure milage, which I'll talk about first.

My goal was to match the previous months figures, which meant:
    • Run for 11 hours
    • Run 120K
    • Obtain a better average pace (5m 20s/km) 

Personally, I think I smashed it. I ran 11 hours 24 minutes last month (topping 11 hours). I covered 134K (passing my 120K target by over 10%) and obtained an average pace of 5m 6s/km, knocking nearly 15s a kilometer off my average pace.

Now, before you start calling me Sonic or Mo Farah, I need to confess something about my first goal which was:
  • Improve my Strength
    • Do Strength Exercises twice a week ("Strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you become a better runner.")
    • Do one Speed-Work Training Session per week
    • Do one Cross-Training Workout per week

For that, I this goal, I get a big giant FAIL! Yep, I have not done a single speed or cross training session all month. Not one... I don't know why considering I know how important these are for a runner. I have been working on my strength primarily through increasing the time I spend stretching before and after a race along with my foam roller which I always get out following a run. My knee problems have subsided so I can only thank the foam roller for that. I think that is why I have been neglecting this side of my fitness goals.

All in all though, this month has been pretty amazing - I got a new 5K PB in Tuam on the 4th of June of 23 minutes 11 seconds. I lost 7lbs and last weekend got a new 10K PB of 46 minutes 41 seconds. My BMI is (just) below 25 and  I feel great. Last weekend I ran a 5K in 22 minutes 47 seconds.

It's been an awesome month out on the road and I am delighted with my progress to date. It's hard to believe that I class myself as a runner now. I've even found myself being envious of passing people out running when I am driving to work. That feeling isn't the same however when I am the one out running and people are flying past in their cars mind you!

Going forward (if this was work, I'd probably call Bullshit Bingo right now!) I have to admit I am kind of worried about the coming month. July is going to be interesting... because I'm off on holidays! I've two weeks off work so being out of my regular day-to-day routine may prove to be a bit difficult. Not having the weekly weigh-ins at Weight Watchers also scares me a little but I suppose it'll be interesting to see what happens when I loosen the reigns a bit. I have my second Half Marathon at the start of August so this coming month is actually going to be quite important if I want to beat my previous time (2 hours 1 minute). 

I'm setting myself the following two goals for this month:

Goal 1:
  • Do some activity at least 5 out of the 10 days I am in Spain (I don't know how difficult it will be to run in the heat but I have a back-up plan involving a Spanish Spin class so we'll see how that fairs out!)

Goal 2:
  • Run 130K (While this target is less than the amount ran last month, I am setting it here as it will still be a challenge to achieve this taking potentially one third of the month off). I need to also start ramping up my distance-runs in anticipation of the Half Marathon on August 5th.

Last week I got to cash in my May reward - I flew over to London with my brother where we went to Viva Forever closing week. I'm so delighted we got to see it as I really enjoyed it! My June reward will be my Summer Holiday. Now while you might say that I was going on my holiday regardless of whether I had hit my goals or not (let's just skim over Goal 1 from last month), I have decided I deserve it. I'm going to enjoy every bit of it and I'm going to stay working away at my running. That's my plan :)

Outside Piccadilly Theatre

Half Time Cocktails