Thursday, 31 October 2013

Popping my Marathon Cherry - Marathon Diaries - Part 2

I woke at 6:46am on Marathon Day and for 4 beautiful minutes I lay in bed thinking about what the day October 28th, 2013 would bring. I lay in the warm comfy bed of the hotel and thought how today would be a day that I would push myself and do something new. I've had that quote: When was the last time you did something for the first time? floating around in my head for some time and today it seems to resonate loudly in my skull. At 6:50am, hotel reception rang through with my wake-up call.

The first photo I took on the day of the Marathon

I got up, ate my muesli (which I had snuck into the room), had a coffee and showered in preparation for the day ahead. We had agreed to meet Brad and Rob in the foyer at 8.15am and make our way up to Merrion Square (the start line). Just before we left the room, I went to tie the band on my shorts (it keeps them up with the weight of my phone in one pocket and jelly babies in the other) only to hear it rip. Yep, typical! I ripped my shorts the morning of the marathon. Luckily I had brought a second pair of shorts with me but imagine, just imagine the absolute stress if I hadn't.

In the lift on the way down to the lobby, I met two other fellow marathoners in their race gear ready for the day ahead. We chatted about the storm which was currently pulling up trees and cancelling flights over in London and how we hoped the weather here would stay ok for the morning at least. We wished each other well and went off on our nervous, happy way. We met up with Brad and Rob in the hotel lobby and made our way up to Merrion Square. It was crazy to see so many people out and about at 8:15am on a Bank Holiday Monday morning. 

On route to the start line, we passed the sign for Mile 26

Once we got to Merrion Square, I had an emotional 'See you on the other side' hug and kiss with my other half before filtering through the gates for runners only. Once beyond the gate, everything became very real all off a sudden - there were hundreds of people filtering left right and centre into their respective waves either putting on extra layers to keep warm, queueing for the porta-loos, or nibbling on pre-marathon snacks. I gave Brad a big proper 'I'm proud of us' type hug as I went off into the Green Wave and Brad headed for the Blue Wave.

Phil and the guys from Maree AC

Myself and Brad - 10 minutes before kick off

As I waited with all the other Green runners, we could hear the marshall countdown and kick-off the 2013 Dublin Marathon with the first wave of runners heading off. Everyone in Blue (Second wave) cheered and applauded while you could almost taste the tension and nerves in the air. I loved the energy from everyone. No one could stay still. Once the first wave had cleared the start line, we moved up to the front and watched the clock head towards 10:00 as our wave was starting ten minutes after the Yellow Wave.

The Second Wave waiting for 9:10am

At 9:10am on the nose, we were off. The first time I welled up was crossing the start line. Hello like, who starts crying before they've even notched up a single step of a race?! I think it was at that point I knew that regardless of how the marathon went, I would be a different person. I knew in my head that even if I had to crawl over the finish line, I was going to finish. I knew that at this exact moment in time I was starting out on the part of my journey that everything up to this moment seems to have been leading to.

Surrounded by thousands of other people, I took off on my own 26.2 mile journey that I can hand on my heart say has changed me. I just remember repeating to myself as I took off: This is my story, this is my life and it's my choice how this story ends. I'm going to give it my best. Of every single person I know, previously I would have always said that I was the least likely one to run a marathon, yet here I am now. There was something about this thought that sent a happy shiver down my spine.

I had read something in the lead up to the marathon which stuck with me throughout the race: You only get one first time to run a marathon, so enjoy it! and that is exactly what I did. I loved running around by Trinity, across the O'Connell Street bridge and up by the Spire. The streets were thronged with spectators screaming and cheering us on. I laughed at some signs, started to well up again at other signs (like the little girl who had a sign that read 'You are my hero Dad').

We entered Phoenix Park around Mile 4 and I was feeling quite confident. I had found a suitable pace and found a clearing in between the 3:40 and 3:50 pacers so I was quite happy. I had set myself 3 time based goals last week: Super Fantastic was 3:45, Fantastic was Sub-4:00 and Really Good was just to finish. I figured being ahead of the 3:50 pacers gave me enough room that if I started to fall back, I would keep up with the 3:50's and still finish under 4 hours.

Phoenix Park (Pic from Irish Runner Magazine's FB)

Half way around Phoenix Park I saw the first spectator in the crowd that I knew. Susan had a giant wave and 'GO JQ' for me from the sidelines. With that little boost in the tank, I kept my head up and with one foot in front of the other continued out of Phoenix Park and along by Chapelizod. As I crossed the canal at Dolphins Barn (Mile 11) I heard 'GWAN JQ' from Stephen this time which really added an extra pep in my step for the next while.

Up until that point, the course had followed much of the Half Marathon I had done earlier this year in Dublin so from Mile 11 on, I didn't really know where I was going. I felt a certain kind of elation crossing the half way point that was quickly replaced with a 'OMG I've another 21kms to go' pained-wince which I'm sure everyone could read on my face.

I kept trundling along happy out until around Mile 15 when before I knew it, the 3:50 pacers were right beside me. This hadn't been part of the plan (in my head) so I pushed on probably a bit harder than I should have to keep them behind me but lo and behold, around Mile 20 (just after the Lucozade Wall), the pacers passed me out and I never saw them again. That being said, I did see my friend Sarah in the crowd who had a big cheer for me which kept me going.

Once we re-joined the Stillorgan Road, I knew where I was. This helped me hugely as with every step, I knew I was heading towards the city centre and therefore the finish line. It was around Mile 22 as I was heading down Nutley Lane that I cried again. As we ran past the hospital (St. Vincent's), a woman dressed in pink pjs and wrapped in a pink blanket, was applauding us from her wheelchair. I just can't fathom what must have been going through that woman's head. However tired or sore I was at that point, there was a end to what I was doing - I knew I was about half an hour away from relief. I knew I'd have people waiting for me at the finish line. I knew I'd be happy once this was over, and yet here was a woman, who is clearly unwell, out smiling and applauding us as we ran past.

I'm getting emotional just thinking about her now. 

As I ran in Merrion Road, I knew I had hit some form of 'The Wall'. The muscles in my legs were sore, hot, and tired. I could tell by the feedback from my Nike App that my pacing had slowed down considerably but I refused to stop and walk. This was the first point in the entire race that I could feel a completely different energy from my fellow runners. People were drained and you could almost taste it in the air. When people in front of you are stopping to walk for a bit and your legs are screaming out for some form of relief, it is really hard to keep going.

It was at this point I had the realisation which carried me over the finish line: Imagine how much harder this would have been IF I was still smoking? With that single thought in mind, I kept ploughing on. I'd even convinced myself that I was going to treat myself to a single cigarette as a reward as soon as I crossed the finish line. I'm ashamed to admit it, but yes, it was the thought of smoking a single cigarette as I lay on the ground relishing in finishing that kept me fueled for the last few kilometres.

Similar to what I imagine running straight into a wall is like, I was overcome from the second I saw the sign that said 'Mile 25'. This was the third and final time I cried (and I never cry). It was at this exact moment that I really truly believed in ME. I knew that no matter what, I was going to cross the finish line and I was going to cross it in under 4 hours. Everything that I had been hoping for was about to come to fruition. There was a strange peace in knowing that I hadn't let myself or anyone else down - not like anyone would have been disappointed in me but just that like Ronseal, I had done exactly what I had set out to do.

The last mile did feel like the longest running around by Pearse St (where I got another 'GWAN GALWAY, GWAN JOHN' from my brother's friend Amy who was applauding from the sideline. As I ran towards Trinity, I knew how far around the corner the 'Mile 26' sign was as myself and Brad had our photo taken with it earlier. Brad had been on my mind a lot during the race. I had wondered where he was, what he was feeling, how he was getting on. A lot of people had been on my mind during the race. Spending 4 hours running leaves not a lot to do but think. I thought about work, I thought about my sister who is expecting in the next two weeks. I thought about my brother who was on holidays in Spain and how much I'd prefer to be lying on a beach in the sun. 

With each passing thought and each progressive 'one foot in front of the other' I found myself closer and closer to the finish line. It was in the very last stretch as I ran up Nassau St that I heard my other half roaring from behind the barrier at the side of the road. That was it. It was his face I had spent the past 26 miles scanning the crowds for, it was his voice I had imagined I'd heard when others cheered and called out their support. His face was the last thing I saw before I fixed my gaze on the finish line which was just appearing on the horizon and off I took.

I wish I remembered what the last 2 minutes of the race was like. I wish I had high-5'd some of the kids waiting by the sides. I wish I had smiled more. I didn't care. I had just finished my first marathon with 3 hours 52 minutes on the clock.

The Walking Dead

As I made my way from the finish line around Merrion Square to where my Mum & other half were waiting, I felt like an extra from The Walking Dead. I became very cold, very tired and very stiff all of a sudden. I hobbled out of the runner's area and straight into the arms of my other half. After a kiss from him and a giant big hug from my Mam, I felt 110% refreshed (but still had to sit on the path while I drank a hot cup of sugary tea!). By the way, once I had crossed the finish line, I never thought about that cigarette I had promised myself.

Brad soon finished with a time of 4:30. After a million sweaty man-hugs, post race analysis and experience sharing, myself and Brad are forevermore bound by the fact that October 28th 2013 will be the date we popped our marathon cherries!

I was Runner 7797. 
I had just run a sub 4:00 marathon. 

3 months ago I was a smoker. 
10 months ago I had never run before. 
15 months ago I weighed over 19st. 
Never in a million years had I ever thought I would run a marathon.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. 
It was one of the proudest moments I've ever felt.

Proud Finisher

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Day Before - Marathon Diaries - Part 1

I feel a bit like a 9 year old writing their report on their summer holidays on the first day back at school. "Hello my name is John and I found out that I like to run this year and since I saw you last I ran a marathon. It was super, it didn't rain and I loved it" would be the condensed 2 line version. If you want the full in-depth version of events, then stay reading. (Note: I had written one big massive blog post but then decided to break it up into chunks as it bored me while I re-read through it. So here is Part 1 - The Day Before.)

On Sunday afternoon, Brad and Rob picked us up and we headed for Dublin. Myself and Brad sat in the back and giggled the whole way up the motorway like two bold schoolgirls on a school tour. I think it was a mixture of apprehensive nerves and excitement mixed together but between the laughs, the slow-mo dancing and the juvenile drawings on the condensation on the windows, we made it to the RDS in Dublin for about 3pm where myself and Brad heading off to the Expo to pick up our race packs.

Like two hyper kids in the back of the car

The RDS was wedged - I've never seen anything like it. I've always assumed they made people go to Expos as a marketing ploy to get a captive audience to buy stuff (which is partly true), but also seeing the queues of people waiting for collect their race packs, it all made sense. I think over 18,000 people had registered to take part so they needed some system (unlike the single table manned by a single person in a school hall that I'm used to) to handle the crowds.

Inside the RDS (Pic courtesy of Brad)

Once we had collected our race packs, we bumped into Phil which was great as I wanted to see him before the race and was afraid I wouldn't on the day. After wishing each other all the very best and as we made our way around the stalls in the RDS, it all became very real that the marathon was about to happen. I still find myself checking other people out and comparing myself to them thinking 'Christ I bet this is yer man's 527th marathon' or 'Look how muscular she is, bet she'll fly it' - which I really need to stop doing. I shouldn't care how fast or slow someone else runs, I should only care about myself and my own performance.

Inside the Race Pack

We also discovered the different colour bibs. Phil's was Yellow, mine was Green and Brad's was Blue. This meant that we were all starting in different waves so wouldn't be with each other at the start line. After we left the RDS, we headed for the hotel (The Westin) and checked in. The place was so swish - a total treat but feic it. I figured I deserved something lush as I was going to be putting myself through a lot on Monday. The hotel is located close to the start/finish line, is 5*, the rooms have a bath, the place is fancy and they serve cocktails - whats not to love about it!

The four of us headed out for what felt like the Last Supper at about 7pm. A friend on Twitter had recommended Skinflint as myself and Brad fancied something carb-y like Pizza or Pasta and we didn't want to venture too far from the hotel. Boy we weren't disappointed. Following a feast of pizza, mozzarella sticks and hummus, we headed back to the hotel where I found myself treble checking my gear for the morning. I don't know why I had packed two pairs of shorts but deciding which pair I was going to wear in the morning stressed me out more than it should have so I retired to bed before 10pm. Lame I know, but I figured I needed as much sleep as possible. 


(Part 2 - Marathon Day - Coming later)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Through wind and rain we got here...

My alarm went off at 9am this morning and I woke the sound the the wind and rain bashing against the window from outside. The first thing that popped into my head was "Oh sweet holy Mary and the baby Jesus I am running a Marathon in 24 hours time!". As I lay there with my mind starting to race with butterflies and excitement and nerves, the words to one of my favourite songs broke through my stream of consciousness and made me smile.

"Through wind and rain we got here"

I cannot think of a better metaphor set to the lyrics of my favourite girl group for my journey so far. As I lay in bed thinking about the rain, the cold or how chaffed I will be tomorrow, wondering if the rain will affect my time or performance - I put the song and just listened to the words and I calmed right back down.

Whatever happens tomorrow, whether I run the only marathon I ever run tomorrow or whether this is the start of a journey to 100 marathons, if my nipples start bleeding from the chaffing (sorry for the image there) or I have an emotional breakdown half way around, I'm proud of me. I'm going to go out there and give it my best. My best doesn't mean the best I will ever be capable of, just the best I am capable of giving right now. 

If I had stopped running after my first 10K, my 'best' would have been 61 minutes. I kept running, ran numerous 10Ks since and have a best of 46 minutes. This is the attitude I am bringing into the marathon tomorrow with me. 

"And in my dreams it feels like we are forty stories tall"

I will thank everyone who has sponsored me so far in person, but for now as the 24 hour clock starts to tick towards the starting line, I'll just leave the link to sponsor me here. Honestly, I'm not trying to put any pressure on anyone and only if you have an extra few euro, I (and BeLonG To) really appreciate your sponsorship.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Be Safe... Be Seen... for Free!

Free! Yes, you heard me right! But no need to thank me, thank the Road Safety Authority. The sobering fact remains that more than two-thirds of fatal pedestrian collisions happen at night. With the days getting shorter coming in to Winter, I have found it's dark in the morning when I get up, and dark by the time I get home from work meaning that if I want to go out for a walk/run, I need to be prepared. I need to be seen.

The RSA recommend the following:

  • Always wear a pair of reflective armbands, high-visibility belt or other reflective or fluorescent clothing which will help you to be seen from a distance
  • Carry a torch on country roads

Well, while I was on the RSA website, I came across their order service which is free. Don't be lousy now and order more than you need. I've seen people brag online about getting "boxes of bibs" which is just ridiculous. You only need one. You can order high vis running bibs, armbands, bag covers, bags here for free. I ordered two running bibs and armbands on Monday - one for me, one for my other half. They arrived yesterday which is pretty quick turnaround time :)

Last month, I bought a head lamp in Halfords for €3 (shur where'd ya be going?) as there are no street lights around the roads near where I live. So if I wanted to go for an early morning walk with the dog or a post-work run, I have to drive somewhere safe to begin with (like the park or the prom etc) which makes going out in the first place even more of an ordeal. This way I have no excuse - it'll be just like Summer (apart from the cold... and the rain... and the darkness...).

Now that you know you can Be Safe - Be Seen for free*... You have NO excuse! 

(*well... in my case it cost €2.99)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Surprise and the Struggle...

I came home from work yesterday evening feeling really tired. It's my own fault. I have been staying up late the past few nights either browsing the Interwebs or catching up on essential TV viewing like American Horror Story (which is awesome) and The Walking Dead (which is not so awesome). Anyway, I trundled in the door after WW class and found a letter from the postman waiting for me by the door.

This was an actual envelope - you know the kind, the ones that don't have a see-through window. Quite surprising really as usually the only envelopes waiting for me are either utility bills/car tax or something/someone I owe money to :) So I open the envelope and guess what falls out...? The most lovely card from Hilary and Margaret whom I had met on the day of the Weight Watchers photo-shoot! The card, which wished me a happy marathon for Monday, was really sweet and so thoughtful. They had also included a disc of photos from the day.

The Photo Disc from my WW Photo-shoot!

You know what this calls for...! A professional side-by-side shot:

I noticed the CD had the new Weight Watchers slogan 'Because it works' on it... and it (Weight Watchers) sure does. Yes WW can be hard at times and yes I feel like I am struggling to hit goal at the moment. No more than the surprise card I got in the post yesterday, last night I caught up with some of my favourite Weight Watchers bloggers. The Nip Tuck Food Blog's most recent post (here) struck about 84 different chords with me all at the same time. It's like she wrote it with me in mind.

Weight Watchers works... it does work. But never forget that things never get easier for anyone. I am not nor will I ever be a Weight Watchers pro or champion. Sometimes I feel that people in WW class or my friends expect more from me, like I am always "on form" or that I shouldn't post pictures of nice food as I shouldn't be eating them. While I'll admit that by and large I am on form, there are times that I splash out. I will go for that 2nd (or 3rd) biscuit or I will have the chocolate dessert after dinner. This doesn't make me a bad Weight Watcher, it makes me human. 

The last line in her blog post is my favourite, it has given me the motivation I've been looking for for the past few weeks:

Imagine yourself, a year from now if you work at it. 
Now imagine yourself a year from now if you quit.

Looking back at my last three months at WW, I have lost and gained the same 2/3lbs. I've gone from 1lb off goal to 4lbs off goal back to 1lb off goal only to bounce back up to 3lbs off goal. I was frustrated - with myself and the process. Yes I know I am training for a marathon and yes I am running for hours each week. But really, in the grand scheme of things... What difference does 3lbs make? I have essentially maintained my weight for the past 3 months. I'm playing the Weight Watchers game because it works! Like I said, while it never gets easier to constantly make the best choices we can (resisting all temptation & exercising at every possible chance), we most definitely get better at it.

I'm still not at goal (as of today I'm 2lbs off), but I have maintained my weight for the past three months. Today TEN WEEKS ago I smoked my last cigarette. This time next week I will have run my first marathon.

And while hitting goal is important to me, being healthy and happy is more important to me. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

One Week to Go...

It's one week to the Dublin Marathon, and all that stands between me and the Start Line is probably what is going to feel like the longest week ever! I have loads to do in work to keep me busy and then when you add in everything else going on, it's probably a good thing that I am Taper mode as I honestly don't know how I am going to fit everything in. It's my father-in-laws birthday, my friends are getting married so we are going to the wedding, its the bank holiday weekend and clocks are going back an hour. Throw in a 5 day working week, bootcamps, my taper runs etc - it's going to be mental!

The one thing that I do know is that I'm well and truly on my way to the Start Line. I get nervous & excited & scared all at the same time when I think about what I will be doing "this time next week". A few times now I've caught myself thinking either "I bet I'll be just finishing breakfast now" or "I wonder should I pack a spare pair of runners in case something happens my pair before the race". I really need to stop as I'm only psyching myself out. I didn't help when I came into work this morning the first thing my colleage said was "This time next week you'll be running"... *cue stomach flips*

Anyway, I do realise it's been over a week since I last updated this blog and that's purely down to how boring I've been. Myself and Brad went out and ran out last "long run" of the Marathon Plan together over the weekend. There was a lovely sense of 'coming full circle' about the whole thing. We ran and chatted and solved all of lives problems over our last long run of 14km. It's funny how much I have changed if I class 14km as not 'a long run', and I've found myself saying things like 'Oh I'm just popping out for a quick 8K'... Hello like, listen to me! I'll never forget the first 6K run I did with Brad months ago on a dark February night in Claregalway. 

Next Stop... The Marathon

I have read time and time again about how I shouldn't set a goal time for the Marathon as the goal IS to finish. My attitude however with everything is, if I'm going to put in the hours, I should at least give it my best shot. For that reason I have set a time goal for myself which is broken into Really Good, Fantastic and Super Fantastic. I have also promised myself not to be disappointed with my time regardless of what I finish in, what matters is the taking part.

Really Good: Finish my 1st Marathon
Fantastic: Under 4hrs
Super Fantastic: Under 3hrs 45mins

If I'm honest, I feel I can run it in 4hrs, especially considering I ran the Athlone 3/4 in 2hrs 50mins. That is why I have set a Super Fantastic goal of 3hrs 45mins as that is a time which scares me. I believe its the perfect balance of a goal as it exists in that gray area between attainable/achievable and something that requires work. I am also aware that regardless of what time I finish in, this will be my first marathon. I can only learn & improve from this point onwards. This will not be my only marathon and my result does not define who I am or how hard I have worked for it.

I am also setting myself a non-time based goal... and that is to raise money for BeLonG To, the national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people. I have set a fairly ambitious target of €20 per mile (so €524.00 in total) which I hope will keep me going when the going gets tough out there on the Marathon route, I will think about both your kind contributions and the work that BeLonG To do for young people out there in Ireland. The Organisation is 10 years old this year and I just wish there had been something like it around when I was in school. You can read about the work BeLonG To do here, everything from Parent Support to Training for Schools, Coming Out Workshops to Forums, BeLonGTo do a 

If you can, and if you would like to, you can sponsor me online at the following page:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Hello Taper...

Yesterday evening, as the sun went down over Oranmore throwing a beautiful orange hue over cow-filled fields, I finished my 22.5km run - the last long run of my Marathon plan. Its 2 weeks to my first marathon. Where the hell has the last 10 weeks gone? I have followed my plan religiously (moving runs a day or two here and there to accommodate life which inevitably gets in the way) and here I am standing at the fringe of my first Marathon Taper.

My marathon plan

The primary aim of a taper is "to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains". I am following a checklist as set out on Runners World (here) which is going to guide me right up to the race day in two weeks time. I have already trusted the plan this far so who am I not to trust the taper... Here is what it says:

Training Checklist
  1. Your mileage should be 1/2 to 2/3s the amount you ran during your highest milage
  2. Almost all runs should be slow (90s-120s slower than marathon goal pace)
  3. Weekday short runs should not exceed 4 miles (6.4km)
  4. Weekend long run should be 8-10 miles (13-16km) max
Mental Preparation:
  1. Set multiple time goals so you won't finish the race "empty handed"
    e.g. Fantastic, Really Good and Good
  2. Set general (non-time) goals
  3. Prepare for the race morning - How you'll get there, where you'll park, how early you want to get there, what you'll wear?
  4. Check the course map and study it
Nutritional Needs:

  1. Keep Calories coming in as usual - your body still needs to repair tissue damaged during milage built-up.
  2. Even though you are running less, resist the temptation to cut way back on fat. Fat reserves postpone or prevent race-day collision with "the wall"
  3. Eat foods high in unsaturated fat such as nuts or fish.
  4. If weight-lifting, stop
In terms of training, my plan follows that exactly what is specified above. This week I have 38km to clock up versus the 62km I was doing two weeks ago. My weekday runs are all 6km and my planned weekend run is 13km. All in all, the only thing I have to be aware of there is just to keep my runs slower than Marathon Pace. As for Mental Prep, I need to do some work on my time and non-time goals. While I have times in mind but I need to sit down and check how realistic they are before I commit them to this blog. Obviously I'd love to say 'I'll run it in 3 hours' but that really isn't realistic. I promise I'll post them as soon as I have decided what I want to set as my target. 

Finally (and most scarily) are the Nutritional Needs. This is where I think I am going to have the biggest problem. In training for the Marathon, I have let my nutrition slip but have been getting away with it thanks to the amount of time I have spent running. A biscuit here, a treat there. Individually they weren't impacting on me as I knew say at coffee break while I was enjoying a Toffeepop that I was heading off out for a 10km run as soon as I got home from work. Now however, I think I am going to have to be careful for the next two weeks not to splurge (which I already feel I have been doing).

I am dreading tomorrow's WW weigh-in, purely because I know I have been a pup all week. I have been dipping in and out of the fridge/press on a regular basis under the presumption "Sure amn't I training for a marathon". And while the argument mentioned in the link I posted above says 'This is no time to diet' - I know I have been bending that rule just a little bit too much in my favour. There is a difference between the fats obtained in Haagen Daas versus say a Tuna Pasta.

Either way, here I am in the Taper Zone. I've said in a previous post before about time passing, and how it will pass regardless of what you do with it. Again I am reminded of how true this statement is. I've put in the hours pounding the roads around Galway. I've stuck to the plan. I've run even when all I have wanted to do was sit curled up on the couch. Something tells me this could be a long two weeks up to the Marathon - but I'm excited. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Winner Takes It All...

Congratulations to all of the winners from last nights Blog Awards. Unfortunately it wasn't to be my year... Congratulations to Sports News Ireland who won Best Sport/Recreation Blog (the category I was a finalist in) and to all other winners across the board. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I really am quite chuffed. I'm a one man operation around here so to be nominated alongside the likes of Elverys and other Sports blogs which are run by 8+ people really is quite a honour. I just can't tell if it means I blog too much or not though :p

I do find it quite funny to be nominated in things like this as I honestly feel like I'm just over here on my little box just writing about my own journey and experiences. I'd nearly bore myself if I had to read them back, so thank you! Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for coming back.

And while Abba may have sang about the winner taking it all while the loser stands small... I disagree! I don't write this blog to win awards or to preach from a height at people who are struggling with their weight/weight watchers. I stand beside you. I have my ups and downs, my successes and frustrations. If one person finds even a sliver of inspiration from my story or blog... then I have won really! How many blogs can say that? :)

No I think YOU are amazing!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Good Luck to y'all at the Blog Awards Tonight

The Blog Awards are on tonight in Naas and it is unfortunate that I have to announce that I won't be there... I'd love to be there as I am quite proud of the fact my little piece of blog space was even nominated in the first place let alone make it on the long list, the short list and eventually on to the Finalist list. 

I'll be following the proceedings on Twitter this evening (in between watching X Factor and dinner) but I just wanted to wish everyone nominated for an award tonight the very best of luck:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Want to run? Amphibian King are starting #Zero25K again

For anyone who has been following this blog or knows me, will know that the very first time I ran was back in January. January 12th to be exact. I remember it so well, it was 8am on a cold dark Saturday morning when I turned up outside Amphibian King in Oranmore to take part in their #Zero25K program.

Deep down, I was scared... Scared I wouldn't be able to keep up. Scared I would be the biggest person there (I was around 16st at the time). Scared I would hate it. Scared I'd be trailing/holding up the group.

That very first morning, 56 people ran 3.1km in 27 minutes. At the time I never saw it as running as in my head all we had done was jog for 60s followed by 90s of walking repeated 8 times. Surely "running" was that thing that happens at the Olympics, it's not this (I thought to myself). Now I look back and smile as I know... that IS running! And for me, the first time I ever ran was a huge turning point in my life, like unknowingly a key had unlocked something inside of me - here I am now ten months later preparing for my first Marathon!

I don't know what I had been scared of. I was able to keep up. I was one of the larger people there but no one had looked twice at me or asked if I had gotten lost. I didn't hate it. I did trail the group but do you know what... everyone has to start somewhere and that day was my starting day. When the run was over, my Nike App awarded me 'Fastest 1K' and 'Most Runs in a Week' awards. LOL, 1 run was all it took to win 'Most Runs in a Week'. Here's my Nike run data from that morning:

My first run - 12/01/13

Sean, who runs Amphibian King in Oranmore, wrote this on his blog (link here) at the time:

"Fantastic to see so many new people become runners this morning. A little bit of hard work over the coming weeks and they will all be ready to tackle their first 5k race."

Little did Sean or Amphibian King know how much his words would sit with me. Ten weeks later I ran my first 10K race in Kinvara in 61 minutes (link here). It's not walk in the park but its by no means hard either. Someone once said to me 'Running never gets easier, you just get better at it'. If I ever get a tattoo (I won't by the way), I'm sure that's what it would say. 

Since I started running, people have asked me over and over how I got started - and there you go. That's exactly how I started running - One Saturday morning run and two mid-week runs following the same plan as done on the Saturday.

I still get the Amphibian King newsletter in my Inbox from when I signed up back in January and look at what I see in this weeks newsletter:

For the past 2 years, each January, we've organised a #Zero25k group from our shop in Oranmore. This has served as an introduction to running for so many people over the past two years and there is such demand for it we are going again!!
Have a read about the group here and you will hopefully be motivated to join us or invite your friends to join us as we go about setting up a new group. Some of our runners have gone on to join local clubs, others have gone onto running Marathons, its up to you where your running brings you. 
Starting the 26th of October we will be hosting our #Zero25k program in two locations, completing just before Christmas: 
  * #AKGalway - based from our store in Oranmore, Galway 
  * #AKLimerick - based from our store in Roxborough, Limerick

All we ask for is that you are 
  * committed to following your fitness development for 9 weeks 
  * trust our trainers to guide you correctly (no jumping ahead in the program!!) 
  * reasonably healthy and injury free (if in any doubt get your Doctor's advice) 
There is no online registration for this season, you must call into the relevant store in person to register and it is of course, FREE of CHARGE!!

I simply cannot recommend this enough! 

The first morning I ever ran (thats me with the floating green arrow over my head)

Wait - I know what you are thinking... I bet its a combination of the following:

* It'll be dark/cold/raining coming in to Winter
* 8am is very early... especially on a Saturday morning
* I'll skip this and start properly in January

Before you dismiss what Amphibian King are offering (bearing in mind it's free so you can't use the cost as an excuse) just imagine being able to START the new year already running 5Ks! Better yet, imagine running your first 5K before the year ends! This could be your life-line to accomplish a fitness goal you set earlier this year but it slipped away. Maybe its a chance for a new beginning? Don't wait until January - I promise you won't regret it! And, if one person does sign up for this and regrets it - come back to me :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Athlone 3/4 Marathon

Its not really comforting when the first thing you see arriving at a race site are the words 'Eyeball The Wall' - but that's exactly what the Athlone 3/4 Marathon had on offer today. With a race distance of 31.646 km / 19.664 miles, I was looking forward to pushing myself in conditions as close to the Marathon race day as possible.

Runners outside the hotel

The race registration took place at the Glassan Golf Hotel just outside Athlone and the place was wedged. I couldn't believe how busy the place was considering I had arrived before 10am (which I thought was plenty of time). I was directed to the overflow race parking which was in a field around the back of the hotel. This meant a 10 min walk to Registration to pick up my race number before heading back to the car to ditch surplus items like the big bunch of keys I had brought with me & my hoody.

Following a brief but informative pre-race announcement about water stations, pacers etc, we made our way around the golf course to the start line behind the hotel. It was on this walk up to the start line I got chatting to a guy about his running past. He told me how he had run his first Marathon in Dublin in 1980 and hadn't run since. Next year, he wants to go for an Iron Man... so to see if its worth all the training, he is training for this years Marathon. Pretty cool eh?

Making our way to the Start Line

The start line was a bit of a confusing mess - the race just started around me. I couldn't find the 4:00 hour marathon pacer (who I was planning on following) and people just started running - no countdown, no whistle. I figured 'Hey what the hell' and kept on trucking. I wanted to push myself to see if I could keep a 5:25/km pace for as long as I could (thats a 4:00 marathon pace). I ran the Athlone Half at a 5:00/km pace which I found fine a few weeks ago, but doubling that distance while keeping that pace up is something I am not confident in pushing for just yet... I keep having to remind myself that my goal for the Marathon is simply to finish. 

The first few km were pretty leisurely but I found I couldn't seem to get past a sizeable block of people who were occupying the breath of the road in front of me. They all seemed to know each other as they were chatting away good-o to each other. Turns out, I was running with the 3:30 Marathon pacers - hence the gathering of people around them and also I had bolted from the trap faster than the 4:00 pacer I was planning on following. I am a dose!

Road Block

Anyway, once I realised my situation I pulled back a little. Not that I felt I couldn't keep up but rather I didn't want to push myself really hard so close to the Marathon. I've said over and over again, my main goal is to get to the Start Line injury free - and from what I have been reading online, pushing myself three weeks before the Marathon might not give me enough time to recover before the big race itself.

I've said in other blog posts before too that I learn something new every race. This race was no exception - The first water stop (4 miles) was a disaster - I hit the water stop just behind the pacers (and the massive group running with them) so the table was cleared and I had to wait for the person manning the water station to get under the table, lift up a case of water, open the water and then hand it out. I know it sounds really trivial but I had read somewhere before to bring water with you so you can skip the first station as it tends to be the most crowded at the beginning of the race.

The brilliant thing about yesterdays race was the weather - it rained for the entire thing. I imagine its as close to actual race day conditions as possible. I had never done a long run in the rain so I was curious as to how my levels of chaffing, blisters etc would be come the end of the race but much to my joy - no chaffing or blisters interfered with my race so I now know what underwear & socks I'll be wearing in a few weeks time (sorry for that visual!). Another thing I learned yesterday is that jelly babies & rain do not mix well. In fact, I had a jelly baby orgy going on in my pocket which was starting to leak white powder through my shorts (sexy I know). I am going to have to bring them in a plastic bag next time to stop them sticking together - anyway,  as I have said before... lesson learned!

The race progressed much as any other race - I performed some of my usual Carol Vorderman type calculations in my head constantly working out what % of the race I had completed every time I passed a road marker to keep my brain busy. I accidentally told myself as I passed the 10K sign "Only a Half Marathon to go"... LOL, imagine... Imagine me telling myself as some form of comfort that I only have a half marathon distance to go to the finish line. Mental.

At around the 27K mark, I came down funny mid-stride and immediately felt my right knee twinge. Shit! At that moment I had to make a decision to either keep going at my pace seen as I was so close to the end or to slow up as I was starting to hobble. I decided (hope this doesn't come back to bite me) to keep on trucking. Luckily (well maybe not for some), a lot of the rest of the journey was up-hill which offered some relief as I was naturally slowed down running up-hill. 

The '1km to Finish' sign couldn't have come at a better time - It gave me enough of a boost in my step to push me down around the field I had originally parked in so I knew my bearings and knew where the hotel/finish line was. My only criticism of the race would be despite the brilliant work of the marshals, the traffic turning in to the hotel was a disaster. We were running towards the finish line around cars coming in and out of the hotel (probably other runners but still, it was handled very poorly).

I flaked down the hotel driveway and over the finish line with 2:52 on the clock. Wet, sore and stiff (sounds like a dodgy porn movie), I collected my medal before grabbing a banana, water and some fruit cake.

3/4 Marathon - CHECK!

I made my way back to the car where I spare dry clothes that I had packed this morning. A quick towel off and I was in nice dry clothes (and shoes) heading back to Galway. I had also bought coke and chocolate on my way to the race - I actually think it was the thoughts of tucking in to these when I got back to the car that maybe motivated me close to the end. Either way, they were flipping delicious! I love guilt-free boldness like this. (Hey, I was replacing sugars and salts and stuff)

Post-race indulgence (on the roof of my car)

Last night as I lay at home on the couch watching X Factor, I got my official time through via text:

First quarter: 0:56:37
Second quarter: 0:55:49
Third quarter: 0:58:20

Overall Chip Time: 2:50:46

Im delighted! Now I just have to figure out where I'll pull the energy from for the final quarter in three weeks time. Either way, this was my last longest run before the Marathon, so what an epic way to end my training. I now go into taper mode for the next three weeks which I am actually looking forward to.

New Silverwear for my Collection

Saturday, 5 October 2013

RaboTweeties, Dance Floor, Hangover... Bruno Mars, Dance Floor, Hangover!

What a crazy few days its been... I'm wrecked! I finished up work on Wednesday afternoon and headed for the bright lights of Dublin on the bus. I met up with my brother and we headed off to the RaboTweeties in The Odean. I'd never been to any of these events before (usually because they are in Dublin and on during the week - but mainly because I've never had a reason to go). 

Myself & My Bro

We arrived at the venue where we quickly scanned the room determined that we knew no-one so decided to find ourselves a spot for the night where we applauded the winners, drank cocktails and waited nervously for the #TweetieInspire award to be announced. Now, I'm not that naive, I know the winners know they have won before any award show so I wasn't actually expecting to win (also, it was a public vote on Twitter so I had seen the votes coming in by searching the hashtag). While Samantha Kelly collected the #TweetieInspire award (Congrats!) myself and my bro clapped and sipped our cocktails.

Whats better than cocktails? FREE cocktails...

On a personal level, the highlight of the night for me was meeting @WarnerMusicIrl who I have been following and interacting with online for ages. That is what Twitter is about for me - connecting with other people over similar interests. I do find Twitter can be a bit of a pain in the hole at times with all of the bickering and self-righteousness but if you overlook the negative-nellys and bickering-biddys, it can actually be a wonderful place. 

My #FeedMe sticker was meant to be ironic. Don't think people got it

When the awards were over, myself and bro feiced off where we met up with friends and continued drinking. Of course the night ended with me throwing some questionable (but epic) shapes on the dance floor to Britney. Feic it - I felt kinda bold being out on a school night. 

More Cocktails

I woke up with a very sore head at some point Thursday afternoon and committed the cardinal WW sin... Went to the shop hungry & hungover. Of course I wandered around with my basket piling it with frozen pizzas, biscuits, crisps and chocolate. I was like a robot on auto-pilot sniffing out anything sugar-filled and comfort food-y. As I stood (like a zombie) in the queue for the checkout, a spark of common sense flashed across my mind and I started to propoint what I had in the basket.

23 propoints in this small dessert for ONE

Shocked and appalled at the propoints in the Billionaire Shortbread (I knew it was bad when I picked it up but didn't realise it was THAT bad), I quickly re-assessed the situation and dumped the crisps and chocolate from my basket. I changed the frozen pizzas to extra thin base ones (hey, you can't win them all eh?) and bought some bananas and apples. Disaster adverted at the last minute!

Fuelled and suitably recharged, I headed off to meet Sinead as we had tickets to the Bruno Mars concert in The o2 on Thursday night. As it was raining out, we decided to do our usual and head to the Gibson for some pre-gig hydration :) What does that mean... more cocktails. Jesus, if I'm not stuffing cupcakes in my face its cocktails! I think I have a problem/love for things beginning with 'C'... Cupcakes, Concerts, Charles, Cake, Cocktails, CJ...

Cocktails on Tap... Whats the problem?

Bruno Mars was ACE! Really really enjoyed the gig. I was quite surprised the gig was sold out to be honest, I like him but didn't realise he had that many fans y'know? Anyway, Bruno entertained us to the max (along with watching the six drunken girls in pink cowboy hats squeeze into three seats and then get kicked out). 


Obviously I rang Brad & Rob during 'Marry You' as I cannot hear that song and not think of them. For anyone who hasn't seen their Marryoke from last year (which features a 19st me), check it out here - its super:

After the concert, myself and Sinead re-hit the pub for some more cocktails which inevitably ended up in us hitting the dance floor of The George breaking it down to Lady Gaga & Miley Cyrus. The only thing I can hope from my few days in Dublin is that all of the dancing has at least knocked off some of the calories consumed from the cocktails. I had an ace few days in Dublin, and despite my great intentions of squeezing in a run or two along the way, its back to reality with a bang...

I have the Athlone 3/4 Marathon in the morning...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Goodbye September...

Hello October, you crept up on me awful quick didn't you...? I can't actually believe how quickly the year has flown by. The one thing I think I'll really lament this year is daylight. When I started running back in January I didn't know any better than wind/rain and darkness, but I have been spoiled for the past six months with good weather, long evenings and nice temperatures. I've noticed its dark in the mornings when I get up, and dark before 8pm in the evening which shortens my window of time to get a proper run in after work.

But enough about daylight hours - I'm starting to sound like my grandfather! 

September (like August) has been an awesome month on the fitness front but totally lame on the weight front. I have lost ONE lb. One. In a month. That being said, I have never worked as hard in my life. I run 244km... I can't even fully comprehend that distance in my head but I am quite impressed. As you can see from the tally below, I spent 22 hours running last month (that's nearly a full day).

I knew that training for a Marathon wouldn't be any easy feat - but seeing the time and distance there in front of me like that is kind of scary. No more than my weight loss, I think actually knowing exactly how far you have to go at the starting point might be more offputting than helpful. Again with my training plan, I just took it week by week. I knew the ground I had to cover, I knew how long I had to set aside each week (e.g. One hour on a Wednesday evening, Three hours on a Saturday etc) so it was easy to handle on a week by week basis.

This has become my new mantra

September has also been an awesome month for the NSV's from the Weight Watchers Photoshoot (and appearing in the magazine), to being a finalist in the Blog Awards 2013. September has been my first entire month smoke free (7 weeks and counting now...) since I was a teenager so that's pretty damn awesome. 

Looking forward to this month, I have the Athlone 3/4 Marathon this coming weekend (that's 31.5km) and then I am on taper (woooo!) which means I will still be running the same amount of times - just not as long/far. I'm both excited and nervous at the same time as the marathon is THIS MONTH! As I said in a previous blog post, my most important goal is to get to the start line in a fit state of the marathon. I know I have put in the time & work and I am looking forward to hitting the streets on Dublin on October 28th.

But back to right now... I am heading off to Dublin today for the #RaboTweeties tonight. I'll report back before the weekend with some quality Glenda Gilson Xpose style coverage of the event. As I'm in Dublin tonight, I'll miss my sisters birthday (how sound am I?), so I just want to wish you the happiest of birthdays Sis!

Did our parents have a buy one get one free voucher for our haircuts?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

And then there were 5...

First there were 32...

Then there were 10...

Now there are 5...

Yep... This Blog has made it from the Long List, through the Short List and on to be a Finalist in the Best Sport/Recreational category for the 2013 Blog Awards

So I currently feel like this


The Blog Awards take place on Saturday, October 12th in the Osprey Hotel in Naas - Hope to see some of ye there :)