Monday, 29 December 2014

The Fields of Athenry

I loved last years Fields of Athenry 10K. It was my last running race of the year and I finished with a PB of 45:09. It was the perfect end of my first year running and I was ready and fuelled for 2014. This years story is a little different.

I left Ennis on Stephens morning at 9am and met up with Aisling in Oranmore and we drove to Athenry together. The day was miserable, like proper grey skies, it was raining and it was cold. Myself Gordon and Aisling met in the Registration Hall which was buzzing with about 1000 people hiding from the rain outside. 

Ready to kick ass!

We hid in Gordon's car until 5 minutes before the start as his car was closest to the start line. I've been very lucky in that I can't remember too many races which started in the rain but bloody hell I've never experienced anything as cold as it was before the race. Considering this was Day 26 of my current run streak, you'd imagine I'd be used to the winter weather by now.

At the start line...

The race started bang on 11am and I took off with the huge surge of crowds. I stayed with the 45 minute pacer although I knew a 45 minute 10K was a hugely ambitious task. I kept the 45 balloon in sight for the first 10 minutes. Phil appeared on my left (not like an apparition or anything) and we chatted for a few minutes as he tried to encourage me to overtake the pacer. At 3km, I wasnt ready to take that risk and decided to hang back and wait until 8km before I'd decide if I was going to overtake. Phil pushed on ahead and disappeared in the distance.

Running in the Rain 
(Photo from Andrew Talbot's FB: Link)

The roads were waterlogged in areas so running with wet shoes/socks never makes a good combination. At one point, someone splashed freezing cold water up my legs as they passed and it stung - well, that or my legs were steaming! We turned off the main road at around 4km and ran the back roads for the second half of the race. It was wet, I was cold, but passing the halfway clock which read 22:50 kept my dream of a 45 minute 10K alive. I pushed for the final half of the race thinking about a hot cup of coffee waiting for me at the finish line.

Looking at my splits, I was starting to get tired and it showed (7km: 4:37, 8km: 4:46, 9km: 4:49). I passed the 9km mark and put the foot down, clocking a 4:22 last km. I passed under the arch in Athenry with 46 minutes on the clock.

Coming in to the Finish
(Photo taken from Flickr: Link)

My official chip time: 45:58 which excited me more than you could know! This year, especially the latter half has been a mixed bag for me (which I'll discuss in another post) but for now, know that finishing at pretty much the same point as I did last year is excellent news. My 10K PB is 43:52 (March 2014) so considering I finished not too far off has renewed my enthusiasm for the new year.

Soaked but happy out!

Monday, 22 December 2014

December Runstreak: Days 11 - 20

The middle of anything is always the worst. Motivation can lack as you are still so far away from the end but I'm so stubborn I ploughed through, I even got a run in after a visit to the Beer Tent in the Galway Markers after work. Hows how the last ten days went:

Day 11: One Wet Cold Thursday Evening

Day 12: Long 15 miler from Barna to Westside and back while the dog was getting his hair cut

Day 13: Post Christmas Party Run

Day 14: Sunday Run(day)

Day 15: Fast Monday Run

Day 16: Slow Wednesday Run

Day 17: Post Drinks Run

Day 18: I think all the Roses are starting to weigh me down!

Day 19: Friday Hi-Viz

Day 20: Saturday Night's alright for Running!

So, 14 hours running and 155km racked up over twenty days - I'm on the homeward stretch. I just have Christmas Day & The Fields of Athenry in the middle. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Waterford Half Marathon

Two weeks after giving up on the Heart Rate training (following my unspeedy performance in Portarlington) I found myself on the road to Waterford with Gordon on a miserable Friday evening. I'd never been to Waterford before and by-jesus I now know why. Its so far away! We got to the hotel about 9pm on Friday night, had a drink and chat before hitting bed early enough. The alarms went off at 8am and we grabbed a quick bite before heading out to WIT Sports Campus for the start of the Waterford Half Marathon.

Myself and Gordon at the Start Line

The rain cleared up as we parked (about 50 miles away) and made our way to the start line which was up the hill behind the Sports Campus. The start was sectioned off by 10 minute markers which made for an extremly easy and efficient kick off to the race. I positioned myself behind the 1:40 pacers but in front of the 1:50. My goal was to finish Sub 1:50 if possible. Considering I had run 1:45 in Connemara in September and 1:56 two weeks previous, I had 1:50 pegged as my goal time.

Waiting for the Whistle...

The race started shortly after 10am and I took off with the huge crowd (1500+) downhill and away from the Campus. Seen as I didn't know Waterford at all, the run reminded me very much of the Great Limerick Run - Lots of estates and industrial estates. The route itself was lovely and I found myself really in a stride by 5K. 

I had a chat with two women about cake (they were deciding who was going to get the larger slice once they finished, I was just glad someone had put the idea of cake in my head). I was watching my clock and each kilometre was in around the 5:00 minute mark (4:48, 5:08, 5:10 etc) so I was happy. Around half way we veered off road and ran along some pretty dodgy country roads in desperate need of a flat surface. I kept on going - curious to see how far running without watching my heart rate would take me.

I felt great as the kilometres clocked up and before I knew it, I was looking at the 12 mile sign. It was the first time I knew exactly where I was in the race and what the road ahead had in store. It was a clean straight run out to the WIT Campus which had just appeared on the horizon. I felt great and still had plenty in the tank. The phrase 'Finish on empty' is one that always sticks with me, especially close to the end of a race. 

(I love how in a Half Marathon I'd class 2KM as the end of a race where as if it was a 5K, the last 250m would be the end!)

I took off and notched up two x 4:45 kms to cross the finish line in 1:46:46. I was delighted with myself. It was a lovely course, well organised with plenty of road closures and water stops. Across the finish line we cured for Chocolate Milk, our pack (with a cool WAC Bobble Hat) and Medal. Gordon crossed the line shortly after I did (1:50) which was a PB for him so with two happy heads on us, we left Waterford happy out.

The Queue at the Finish Line

The Medal

Half Marathon #9 in the bag, that was my 6th this year and completed the promise I had made to myself back in August to run one a month for the second half of the year instead of training for a marathon. I've really enjoyed running one a month and it's definitely something I'd love to do again, just maybe not in counties as far away as Laois and Waterford. 

 BOOM! Last Half Marathon of the Year

Friday, 12 December 2014

December Runstreak - Days 1 - 10

So I'm a third through the December Runstreak, so here's an update. I've spent 6 hours 47 minutes covering 73.7km. I've pretty much stuck to the 30 minute rule with the exception of the Waterford Half Marathon. Here's how each run broke down:

Day 1: Fast First Run

Day 2: An hour night trail run around Kilcornan Woods in the freezing cold

Day 3: Post Work, Pre Dinner Quickie

Day 4: So wet, so cold. Had to take shelter inside or my photo!

Day 5: Post Work, Pre Car Trip to Waterford Run

Day 6: Waterford Half Marathon

Day 7: Sunday Morning Run

Day 8: Just another manic Monday

Day 9: Brought the dog with me today (so was slower but he enjoyed it)

Day 10: 7am Run in a Storm

So days 11 to 20 will be tough in the run up to Christmas. This is my third runstreak and each time I do one, it reminds me how easy it is to come up with an excuse not to run. There are nights when sitting on the couch would be so much easier than lacing up and going out for a run, however I've never come home from a run and regretted it! Hope the rest of the run-streakers are enjoying their festive run! I'll update ye in 10 days!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Run December Run!

During the week I read the following in the Irish Times (link):

"In six weeks’ time the media will be full of people discussing how their New Year’s resolutions will get their lives in better shape, get their diet in better shape, get their health in better shape.

And four weeks later, all the good intentions will be gone."


I'm not gonna lie, I have been oh so tempted to throw in the towel on 2014 and start back at WW come January 1st. I'll be oh so good, on my best behaviour. I'll undo every Rose, every Mince Pie when that clock strikes midnight on December 31st. Sure don't I deserve it, I've worked hard this year, clocked up close to 1400km running and many more cycling.

I've always been a believe in turning intentions into habits by action. Why would I throw away everything I've worked for this year just so I can have a gluttonous December? I'd be sliding three steps back for no reason. I'm actually going to do the opposite - action always beats intention. I signed up for the '7 weeks for €50' at Weight Watchers for start so regardless of how each week  in December plays out, I'm going every Tuesday - so christmas parties, birthdays, fruit cake and christmas markets will just have to be dealt with.

The Tralee Marathon is FIFTEEN weeks away yesterday! Eeep! So that should keep me on my toes but just to make sure, I've also signed up for the Amphibian King Runsteak which starts today and runs for the month. I did it last year and loved it. It'll be my 3rd runstreak but I've loved each one. Turning what seems impossible/a challenge into the possible has always fuelled me on.

December is shaping up to be a busy one. I have the Waterford Half Marathon this weekend, the Fields of Athenry on St Stephens Day, my Marathon Training Plan and now this Runstreak. Yes its a lot of running but yes I am so up for the challenge!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Off The Laois Half Marathon

I arrived in Portarlington just before 10am on Sunday morning ready for my eight Half Marathon. I was excited and curious to see how this run went as it was going to be my first run since starting Heart Rate training. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on what was a most beautiful, Winter-crisp morning. I'd never been in Portarlington before but it was hard not to miss the start line which was across from the Odlums factor which could be seen from all sides of the town.

Ready for road!

The run was meant to start at 11am but due to a backlog at registration, the race was postponed until 11:30 when both the 10K and Half runners started together. It's such a shame the mess-up at the start happened as it was the only blip in what was otherwise quite a brilliantly organised event. After a 10 minute warm up, the 500+ runners made their way to the start line and the race started bang on 11:30.

At the Start Line

My plan for the race was simple - run at Threshold Rate (151-155bpm) for the race. It was a test, just to see how long it and how fast it would take me. The crowd were off and so was I. I've spent the last 6 weeks not bothered about time, so I really wasn't paying attention during the run. I took everything in - the back roads, the scenery, the blue sky. I noticed the frost still on the ditches as we made our way around the course.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Getting a place in one of the World Majors

Back in April, the ballot for the London Marathon opened (and closed within 24 hours) and I had registered my interest for 2015. Then last month I received this magazine:

Its a no...

My dreams of running one of the World Majors has dashed for 2015 as the others: Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Boston were out of the question. I signed up for Tralee (which is now only 16 weeks away!) - better get running. At the same time, I saw the ballot for the Berlin Marathon was open for the month of October, with the decision being made mid-November.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Are we out of the woods yet?

Trail running has never been something that has interested me. If I'm going for a run, I'm going for a run - that's it! So I was surprised last week when I saw that Sean from Amphibian King was starting up a Trail Run group on Tuesdays in Kilcornan (Clarinbridge). Described as an introduction to trails, I was keen to get tucked in. No more than with the cycling or the heart rate training, I'm always open to trying something new. Who knows where it'll lead or what opportunities/experiences will unfold.

After work on Tuesday, I went to Weight Watchers, home (grabbed a quick bite to eat) and was back in the car heading for Clarinbridge at 7:45pm. There was something spooky in the air as a heavy fog which had descended on County Galway disappeared upon entering the woods.

Following a quick introduction from Sean, myself and Alex headed off following Sean into the woods. In what I can only describe as a mixture between Temple Run and Tomb Raider, we ran, jumped, tripped, slid and navigated our way around the woods. Without any street light, it was completely different having to run only focusing on the spotlight in front of you.

Trail Run - Mapped

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Do you carry RoadID?

There is one piece of running kit that I never leave home without and no, it's no my phone, it's my RoadID wristband. I bought it back when I started running based on Sean from Amphibian King's advice. What if you were in an accident? What if you needed medical attention and were unconscious?

My Road ID (and my dog)

Without getting too dramatic here here, but the thought has crossed my mind before about what would happen if a car hit me (and drove off)? Usually I run alone and I run a lot of country roads around Oranmore/Clarinbridge which have both poor lightening and no footpaths in parts. (I'm sure however it is as likely to happen in a busy urban area as it is on a dark country boreen).

I always run lit-up with a headlamp and high-viz when its dark, but I'm not even talking about when its dark. You could be hit at midday, in July, when the sun is shining. Putting an ICE (in case of emergency) number in your phone is great and all but what if your phone was PIN locked or broken in the accident.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Update on Heart Rate Training

I am three weeks into my HR training plan, and three weeks away my next race, a Half Marathon in Laois, so I said I'd do a quick update. I have been sticking to the plan as prescribed by Matt from Fitness Analytics, which involves two threshold runs (one short, one long), one interval run and two recovery runs.

I'll admit I am loving running 'with a purpose'. I have felt more engaged with each of my runs over the past three weeks. Yes I've had to keep an eye on the watch but I've found running without a time driven purpose has been a welcome change. Instead of going out 4/5 times a week running at the same intensity (5:00/km), I've really enjoyed using my heart rate to better understand how my running form differs on different days.

It doesn't matter how hard you push yourself, there are benefits

Weather, Mood and Energy Levels play such a huge part in effort yet I never really gave them credit before. This week (Week 3), I've really seen my times pull apart depending on the run type. For example, I ran my Interval (11km) at an average of 5:05/km while, Threshold (10km) at 5:22/km and Recovery (10km) at 5:30/km. Even having intent before I leave the house (e.g. This Interval Run is going to be tough, but its only for an hour and then I get a Recovery Run tomorrow) has been great.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Accountability is my key!

The past few months have been a bit bobby, up and down and up and down weight wise. I haven't seemed to be able to re-grasp the wagon as firmly as I have in the past. I've been fobbing it off with every excuse under the sun. "Oh but I gave up smoking" or "Sure I'm training for a marathon". Now while I am not discrediting any of these, I think the time has come to draw a line in the sand and move beyond these crutches as excuses for what is going on.

After the wedding and honeymoon this Summer I hit 14 stone which scared me a little. Not because I felt I was slipping back towards 19st John but more so because I couldn't believe I let myself put back on 2st. Looking back over my weigh-ins from the last ten weeks, I have been playing around with the same bloody pound. It's so unbelievable disheartening to put in a good week and then be down half a pound. Likewise, there have been plenty of weeks I have been bonkers (nights out, 3 course restaurant meals etc) and its only shown as half a pound up.

The weeks you expect to be up and are up (but not as much as you had thought) are actually harder to recover from as you lull yourself into a false sense of 'I really should be giving myself a kick up the arse but seen as the damage wasn't too bad, it's grand'. It can be really hard to stay motivated week on week when you aren't seeing any results however the one thing that I do know is how important it is to weigh-in each week. 

For me, Accountability is key! Not to anyone else, just myself.

I wasn't go to go to Weigh In this week. I just felt like I had had a bad weekend and I fell into the "if I just had another week I'd really go for it and then I'd be down next Tuesday" trap. Something made me go, I think I knew deep down that if I didn't that I'd fall (and fall hard) as I'm on holidays from work this week so the usual schedule would be out the window.

Going back to my old mantra: If you change nothing, nothing will change. Clearly what I've been doing for the past 3 months has been enough to sustain - I've been exercising & running loads but I've also stopped tracking. I'm at a 13st 9lb block I can't seem to jump. I do think a lot of what is going on with me is mind over matter and for that reason I've set myself a mini-challenge, a goal inbetween goals. I have 8 weigh-ins until Christmas and I will be 13st.

If I'm going to put in the time to train for the Tralee Marathon (in March), I am going to put myself in the best possible position I can. What is the point training for the next 20 weeks weighing 20lbs heavier than I was the last time I ran a marathon. Surely its counterintuitive. My mini-goal is 13st by Christmas. I'll figure out the rest of it after that :)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Skinny Doll's Countdown to Christmas

One of my all time favourite bloggers The Skinny Doll is doing a Countdown to Christmas challenge over on her blog. The 12 week challenge is to keep us in check as we trundle towards December 25th (and 2015!).

It's been ages since I last guest posted on her blog (November 2013) so I was more than delighted to jump at the opportunity to appear as part of this challenge. As The Skinny Doll and so many others know - its always so much easier to dish out advice rather than pay heed to your own. 

Have a read of the post - Where is the Finish Line? Click here:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Marathon FOMO

For those who don't know, FOMO is defined as:

and I am suffering from a gigantic case of marathon FOMO. I would attribute 22% of this to the fact I received a 'Sorry' magazine in the Post from London Marathon. 31% has been caused by seeing so many others taper in prep for the 2014 Dublin Marathon (Michelle, John & Bernie to name a few). 10% is nostalgic, like I imagine child-birth, its been too long I've clearly forgotten the pain. The final 37% of my FOMO lies from something inside me, my desire to go the distance again and to beat only myself.

Its a NO from London

I had registered for the London Ballot back in April along with 125,000 others and to be honest, I wasn't really expecting to get a place but a part of me did hope I would. Imagine how brilliant it would be to get one of the Big Six (World Majors) under your belt. With London out of the picture and Tokyo, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and New York not even on the radar, I'm stumped. I had wanted Marathon #3 to be special.

For the past few weeks I've been toying with a few ideas. I could still secure a London place through a charity but most of these places require at least €2,000 to be fundraised for the charity. My other option is the Paris Marathon which takes place the weekend before London. This however kind of poses the same problems geographical and logistical problems as London as in, by the time you add in flights, accommodation etc, the thing ends up costing over €500.

That is when it hit me - the challenge of a marathon shouldn't be in its organisation, it should be in the training. 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles regardless of where you run them. Ok, I will admit while it would be epic to pass Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, a mile is still a mile. For that reason I've made a decision about the glamorous location of Marathon #3 - but first, a quick flashback:

I didn't realise the importance of Marathon #1 at the time but on reflection I now understand exactly what it meant to me. You never get to run your first again and I'm so glad mine was everything I could have hoped. I loved following the online running forums, making up a colour coded training plan and clocking up the miles on the road.

Myself & Brad - the morning of the Dublin Marathon

Marathon #2 was more for me. I followed the same plan as before, but trained on my own, ran it on my own. I didn't know anyone else doing it. I finished one minute faster than Dublin (3 hours 51mins) but most definitely finished on empty. My legs cramped immediately across the finish line and I lay in a ditch at the side of the road crying while my poor mam & other half tried to help as best they could (By the way, them just being there was more than enough!).

Post Connemarathon

Marathon #3 is going to be about goals! I've signed up for the Tralee Marathon. Yep... Admittedly its not as sexy as Paris or as slick as London, this is the marathon I hope to run in under 3 hours 30 minutes, so does it matter where I do it? 

That means aiming to knock TWENTY ONE minutes off my previous best. 
Marathon #3 is TWENTY ONE weeks away (15th of March).
Better get to work...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Running to the beat of my heart...

I've just finished the first week of following the training plan set out for me by Matt in Fitness Analytics and I have to say I found it really interesting. It was so different to anything I've ever done before as there was variety and because I've had to fight every instinct to run for time. This weeks plan had 2 x Threshold Runs, 1 x Interval Run and 1 x Recovery Run. Matt did point out that speeds will vary on a day to day basis for a number of reasons such as environmental conditions, how fatigued the body is etc so I have to trust the master and follow his plan.

First off, let me introduce you to Walter, my watch! Yep, my husband went out and bought me a fancy watch with a heart-rate monitor so I can maximise my training efforts - how sound is that! I would say 'Yippie, I just saved myself a fortune!' but now that we are married isn't my money his and his money mine... so YAY - He saved me half a fortune! (I'm joking BTW incase anyone thinks I'm serious).

Walter - My new Watch

So first up, I'll talk about the Threshold Runs. According to the report 'running around your Lactate Threshold improves aerobic endurance capacity. This is important as it is at this point fatigue occurs due to lactic acid build up. My threshold heart rate was determined as 151-155bpm and I never realised how hard it is to keep your heart rate within 5bpm before but I think you'll see from my Friday run, I've managed to get the hang of it:

One Hour Threshold Run - 11km

It is so interesting to see my run data laid out like that. Normally I'm so used to focusing on time that I never pay attention to anything else whereas here you can see after my first km warm-up, I stuck pretty much bang in my Threshold Zone (151-155). What was interesting was how great I felt after the run. I'm looking forward to seeing that time come down for the same heart effort.

Next up was the Tempo Run where I had to target a BPM of 156-169. I used this run as an Intervals so I divided my time between the Threshold Zone and Tempo Zone as follows:

1 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
2 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
3 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
2 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 2)
1 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 2)

 HR during the Tempo/Interval Run

The run was more difficult but I really enjoyed it. I found it quite difficult to get my heart rate back down into the Threshold zone within the minute but it thought me more to speed up with effort, slow down quickly. I'm looking forward to tackling this one again to see the difference Intervals make.

The final 'new' type of run this week was the Recovery Run. The purpose of this type of run is to help the body recover by keeping the heart rate relatively low (140-150bpm). I was quite surprised with my pace for a recovery run (way slower than I'm used to). 

Recovery Run around Oranmore

So I'm one week in and after my 4 runs, 2 bootcamp sessions, numerous walks with the dog and one day off, I have to say I'm feeling incredibly charged at the end of Week 1. I love the structure and am looking forward to getting tucked into Week 2. Nothing changes this week, its back to the same again but I feel more confident with knowing what I'll be doing this week. Matt's report has recommended that once a firm base has been laid down, things can be changed around within the program so I am looking forward to giving him my feedback after 3/4 weeks.

I'm still finding it hard to ignore the time as it flashes up on the watch but I trust the program and hope to see improvements in the coming weeks. The final recommendation was to choose a target event in 6/8 weeks time to test my fitness. I have chosen a Half Marathon in Laois (Off The Laois) on November 23rd. At the moment this is the only race I have in my diary. I'm interested to see if this type of training will help me break last months Half Marathon time.