Sunday, 25 May 2014

Tour de Connemara

Friday, the day before my first cycle actually turned out to be quite the learning experience. I realised how truly underprepared I was. I didn't know how to change a flat tyre, I didn't have a water bottle or a water bottle cage on my bike. I didn't own proper racing stuff. Following a quick panic attack, two of my cyclist buddies (Thanks Marty & Ger) came to the rescue and gave me loads of advice. I ended up dropping a small fortune in Halfords but left with a mini-pump, 5 tubes, a saddle bag, tyre levers and a puncture repair kit. A guy from work had an unused cycle kit in my size so I got myself some free proper cycle clothes too.

My alarm went off at 7am Saturday morning and I loaded up the car and headed for Clifden. I had my bananas, energy bars, water, phone case, water bottle, pump, helmet, gloves and most importantly my bike packed in the car. This cycling malark really is a lot of work. I arrived just before 9am and got parked in the mart on the outskirts of the town. This turned out to be one of the best moves of the day as I met Caitriona (a girl from work) who gave my bike a quick look over before I headed up to the start line.

Ready to kick some ass!

The 140KM guys headed off at 9:30am leaving a much smaller crowd behind for the 10am 80K route. I took the half an hour to pee (I always get pre-race fake full bladder) and double check everything was ready for the race. I met Caitriona again at the start line but lost her as soon as the whistle blew and we were off. The first few km were quite slow as the sheer volume of bikes on the road. I had lost Caitriona at the beginning and thought I might catch up with her but its so hard to pick out cyclists from behind so I just keep trucking soaking everything in.

Before the whistle...

The route took us out of Clifden, through Ballyconneely and Roundstone before hitting the Food Stop 35km in at Cashel. The whole thing was completely unlike anything I had expected. There was no rush or panic in anyone. This was the hardest part of the whole day to get my head around. I kept having to tell myself 'This isn't a race, its a cycle'. As I hit the stop, I bumped into Caitriona which was brilliant. We joined the food queue and once inside, got sandwiches, cake, tea/coffee and water. It was exactly what the doctor ordered.

80KM Food Stop in Cashel

Outside people were chatting, checking their tyres, taking photos. It was such a different experience to what I had in mind of a water station mid run. We were back on our bikes and myself and Caitriona cycled the remaining distance either beside or in front/behind eachother. The route continued back onto the main Galway - Clifden road before we turned left onto the Lough Inagh road through Connemara.

Myself & Caitriona having a pit stop

This is the road the Connemarathon started on so it brought back a mix of emotions cycling along the road this time. It was funny passing the spray painted signs on the side of the road making each mile out and it was at this point I realised the main difference between cycling and running. Now, this may sound trivial to everyone reading this but it was only at this moment did it strike me... You cannot progress a single step forward in a race without spending energy. Each footstep doesn't just happen - on a bike its so different. You can adjust speed according to your energy levels, change gears to reduce exerting effort, you can coast when going downhill. Running is simple: One foot in front of the other repeated. 

What was incredible about cycling is that I felt I could take in more. I could appreciate the wonderful countryside we were cycling through. I could see the sun breaking through the clouds casting different colours across the roaming hills and mountains as we sped through Connemara. When we got to the top of the road (10K into the Marathon route, 60K into the cycle), we took a left towards Letterfrack. There was a nice PowerBar refresh tent 65KM. We stopped for a quick drink before hopping back on our bikes to tackle the remainder of the journey. 

Recharge stop at 65KM

I had known there were two large hills near the end of the cycle but had completely forgotten about them until we were pulling out from the PowerBar tent when Caitriona said 'Just these hills now and we'll be home'. I didn't know what to expect as I'd only ever driven this road once before and couldn't remember any hills. As we cycled towards Letterfrack, one of the motorbike marshals pulled up alongside me and we chatted for a few minutes before he scooted off to help two people at the side of the road.

The first hill was tough but short... and the downhill ride afterwards made it so worth the climb in the first place. This is what I mean about the main difference between running and cycling. Once we had the effort put in going uphill, I reckon I travelled over a km downhill without peddling once. In fact, looking at my Strava, I sped downhill at 56.9km/h - that is insane! 

Once I passed the 5KM to go sign, I knew it was plain sailing back in Clifden. People chatted while they cycled towards the finish line, I could hear people clap and laugh on their bikes behind me and in front of me for the last few kilometres which was lovely. There was a real sense of collective achievement/experience - this is another huge difference between cycling and running. Its rare that I've finish a race and felt like collectively all of us had achieved something (the Dublin Marathon being the only exception).

Finishers Medal!

I crossed the line and my Strava was stopped at 3 hours 50 minutes. (There was no clock). We collected our medals and I watched for a while as people applauded others crossing the finish line, people hugged and cheered, people had their photos taken on the podium all while music blared from speakers into the post race finish area. Luckily Caitriona had brought some money with her (I have a list of things to do for the next cycle which I'll publish later in the week, but not having money when you finish really was stupid!). We went around to the BBQ area and Caitriona bought me a burger which certainly helped my recovery!

Nyom!

First cycle done and dusted. I've learned loads, was thankful I didn't get a flat and really enjoyed the day. Getting into my car to drive home I had a big smile on my face, I'd surprised myself again. Today I cycled the furthest I'd ever cycled in my entire life, it was awesome and I'm actually looking forward to pushing myself further. The Ring of Kerry is only 6 weeks away. 180km is a hell of a jump from 80km so I really need to get out on the road more and get more hours practice in. Having experienced my first cycle though has made me even more confident that I can do the Ring of Kerry as the cyclists of Connemara have shown me... cycling is more about the entire journey to the finish line than just crossing it, more about the the people and the camaraderie than the competition.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

"In between goals is a thing called life..."

One of my all time favourite quotes is "In between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed. Enjoy the journey". In fact, I love it so much, I have it on the top of my blog. Today, I can mark a giant green tick beside another one of my goals. I cycled over 80km in my first cycle event, the Tour de Connemara (blog post coming tomorrow).

Half way through todays cycle, a thought crossed my mind. Today marks exactly one year since I ran my first half marathon (in the Burren). So here you have it - Quitting Smoking, Two Marathons, PBs, Bicycles, Photoshoots and so much more. I've met new people, made new friends, blown my own mind in terms of doing what I never thought possible.

I'm already excited about working towards the next goals I've set myself!

May 24th 2013 vs May 24th 2014

Friday, 23 May 2014

Race 4 - Claregalway [Galway 5K Series]

Looking out the window Tuesday evening, one would be forgiven assuming we'd be swimming the course in Claregalway this week. It rained. The sky flashed. It rained some more. Despite the banter on Facebook bouncing around by a few of us, we all still turned up at the start line in Claregalway before 8pm.

Gordon, Brad, Aisling, Me, Elaine, Michelle & Yvonne

Myself and Aisling took the carpark in the park to warm up for about 15 minutes before hand. We were both feeling that little bit jaded as we had been at bootcamp at 7am where we had been put through our paces with a running challenge already that day (Death by 10m). I made the executive decision to run without headphones for this race. I figured it would take the pressure off as it had been nearly 2 weeks since my last run (I know, bold John!) and with Bootcamp already in my legs, I wasn't expecting a great time.

I started closer to the back of the pack than I'm used to but luckily the route started on the N18 which is a wide enough main road so I could easily work around the amount of people ahead of me. The first kilometre was uphill but I'm used to that road as I've ran it so many times, I didn't seem like it was too much of a challenge. We turned off the main road at the 1K mark where the route brought us up and down along the back roads of Claregalway.

It was such a muggy evening, it was quite close despite the fact it had just rained. This has been the only 5K race I've taken part of where I've seen people stop and walk. One guy was bent over leaning against a wall around the 2K mark in what looked like grasping for air. There were people from a house out with him so I figured he was being looked after.

My biggest difficulty with the Claregalway route is the fact you can see the Corporate Park the whole way around the course, and you know the finish line is right at the entrance. So even when you cross the 4K mark and you tell yourself 'Just up here' you really know how much further you have to go cause you can see it. As I had no idea of my pacing, I really didn't know if I was going to smash my time or come in 5 minutes slower than normal. I felt ok and I wasn't really pushing myself so I wasn't too bothered as I turned back on to the home stretch heading home... that was when I saw HIM!

HIM is the generic name for the guy who keeps finishing just in front of me at every race. Every photo album post 5K, there is he. Crossing the finish line just in front of me. I pushed hard for the last few hundred meters and saw the clock about 50m from the finish line. I crossed the finish line just before 22:00 which really wasn't bad considering I had no idea of my pace the whole way throughout the race.


My official chip time was 21:46, giving me my "slowest 5K" this year which is also only 15 seconds slower than my fastest 5K. I couldn't believe it! If I'd had my pace, I reckon I really could have pushed myself harder for the last kilometre but dya know what... lesson learned! I'll know to have my earphones in next week and I'll be ready to go for it! I think my dreams of a Sub 20 minute 5K are well and truly shot for this 5K series but that's ok! I've plenty on my plate to keep me going in the mean time.

I can't believe there are only two races left. I knew this week in Claregalway was going to be tough thanks to my general workload, balancing cycling and the fact I've neglected my running since Loughrea two weeks earlier so overall, I was happy with my performance. I'm looking forward to next weeks run in the Galway Racecourse. I hope to see Rob back at the start line (he is in crutches) and I'm really going to miss Yvonne (she's pulling a sickie next week but its totally legit so that's ok). I've said it before but the best part of the 5K series (and races in general) is the people! They rock!



Myself and Aisling


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Up and down the back roads...

Tour de Connemara is less than a week away and I've grown more and more conscious of the fact I haven't been actively pursuing my cycling. If given the option, I will still go for a run. Its just so much easier. No glove, padded shorts or helmet needed. No need (really) to worry about traffic or roads. I always set off on a run with my route mapped out in my head. Cycling really is a different beast altogether.

Leslie taking a well deserved break

On my last cycle, I headed off with a route in mind (Oranmore to Coole Park and back) but about 10 minutes into the cycle, I became very wary of my inexperience on the road when it comes to cycling. I found myself without any hard shoulder as I turned into Clarinbridge (the narrow turn by the water tower) when a car sped past me with what felt like a cats whisker between myself and his wing mirror. Now, I would like to point out that I was most definitely not in the wrong here, I was as close to the yellow line as possible and with the solid white line on the drivers side, he was being a dick trying to overtake me when he had no visibility.

The conditions were bad (it was grey, wet and windy) so I decided to turn up and travel along some back roads for a while just to calm back down after my near miss. I took the left just before Clarinbridge and went off exploring all the side roads around the villages I know so well. When running, you would never take a chance and see where one road connected to another, however this time I could go for it. The back roads behind Clarinbridge/Kilcornan Woods were quiet so I just peddled away to myself happy out (despite being lashed on). 

I re-joined the main road on the far side of Clarinbridge and stayed in the hard shoulder as far as Ardrahan. Despite Ardrahan looking like an empty movie set, I decided to head left and took another road I had never been on in my life. I loved it. I loved cruising along past houses I'd never seen. I loved seeing roads which connected to other places I never would have thought were joined other than the way I know. The only downside to the back roads experience was the amount of dead hedgehogs, badgers and cats I passed :(

The back road brought me as far as Craughwell and I knew I had the tough straight road back to Oranmore. It was particularly tough heading home as the wind was constantly against me but I cycled on and made it home in just over 2 hours.

52K Cycle

I'm excited for this Saturdays Tour de Connamara. It will be my first cycle event, my first 80K and hopefully will give me a better feeling of belonging as a cyclist. I know I haven't done half enough preparation for this however I think having signed up for this event has been crucial in keeping me going and getting me this far so far. It's just over 6 weeks until the Ring of Kerry which is 180K! Eeek! I'm hoping this Saturday gives me the kick/confidence I need.



Friday, 16 May 2014

Race 3 - Maree [Galway 5K Series]

This is a Galway 5K race report from the other side of the race line! It was Maree's debut as part of the Galway 5K series so I offered my services to volunteer at the race. (Now while that may sound really honourable, it wasn't really... each week, the host club is responsible for their race and I've had such a super time at other races without paying the helpers much heed so fair dues - it was my turn to pay back).

The Maree AC volunteers

At our pre-race meeting, Catherine (The Club Chair) was looking for someone to kick off the race. Before I knew it, I ended up with the megaphone in my hand taking notes on what I had to say. The 23 marshals had all been given their posts and responsibilities. Phil was cycling, leading the race which is also a pretty awesome job while Sharon was stuck behind her camera as Maree are only club out there taking photos at each race, so I actually think her job was the most important :)

Megaphone-tastic!

As I was just waiting around for the start, I got to do lots of different things like talk to other runners prepping for the start. The most interesting conversation I had was with the guy who is responsible for the chip times. He told me the advantages of each different chip along with how they work. I'm such a numpty, I had no idea... Well, I'd never given it much thought!

I have to admit, the least pleasant part of the whole experience is watching and directing traffic. I only know because I helped distribute leaflets in the local area but sweet jesus some people are really ignorant when it comes to their cars. First off, about 90s before the start of the race, all 650 runners were lined up at the start line and this woman in her car just wouldn't take 'Wait 5 minutes PLEASE' and just plowed through the start line. It was her poor son in the back I felt more sorry for hanging his head in shame as the drove through like a bull in a crowded china shop.

I'd never started a race before so was quite excited to get the chance. Part of me wondered how my rendition of Beyonce's "End of Time" would have gone down but I decided to stick with tradition. The timing guy gave me the nod so I started counting down... 10, 9, 8... A few of the runners at the front pointed out two girls further down the road with their bibs on running towards us (clearly late for the start). I asked 'Should I wait?' and the general consensus from the front of the crew was 'Wait'. As the girls approached, they got a huge round of applause. I counted 3... 2... 1...

And they are off...

I couldn't believe how long it took for everyone to take off. Standing at the start line, I watched everyone cross over the line and then... nothing! I had my hard work done for the day so now we just waited. It was around 10 minutes later when a car approached we realised we had no traffic marshal BEHIND the start line.

I was free so jumped into action and manned the junction behind the start line. In all fairness, most of the cars we fine with the fact they were either going to have to wait about 30 minutes to pass though or else they'd have to drive around the long way (which takes at least 15 minutes). One guy in a van was bull thick (like it was my fault or something). To be honest, I understand. I can imagine how frustrating it is to come on to a road closure when you least expect it but honestly, at 8pm on a Tuesday evening down a country road! That's considerate if you ask me.

Maybe I'm siding with the runners as I am one. I remember running in Athlone before and the last 500m to the finish line was spent dodging cars leaving the car park. No-one wants that. It's irritating enough when you see someone already finished running back along the race route (especially if they have a medal) but cars leaving, especially with runners inside is essentially like a kick in the teeth.

As I stood at the junction, I got to watch (and chat) with all the runners coming back across the line heading back towards the water station. People seemed to really enjoy the course which was fantastic as I really love that route down around Middle Third. I've done it more times than I'd like to think so it was great to know loads of other people will know I'm not talking about Lord of the Rings when I say it again :)

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening but a hell of a lot of work and organisation goes into it. I got off light, I just turned up for 2 and a half hours and held a megaphone. I did miss running last Tuesday but I cant wait to get back behind the start line next week. The one thing I did leave with this week is a new found appreciation for anyone who organises a race. Its tough, and it must only be for the love of running (or the profit) people do it! 

(Big shout out though in fairness to all the Maree marshals and organisers who made the experience all the more enjoyable for me, and hopefully the runners taking part!)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Race 2 - Loughrea [Galway 5K Series]

Loughrea has stuck out in my mind as 'the toughest' of the 5K series races from last year but I'm almost sure that had more to do with the wind & rain last year along with the parking fiasco which resulted in myself Brad and Sinead running to the start line just in time for the race start. This year, we weren't taking any chances, so when myself and Aisling landed in Loughrea at 7:10pm, we had too much time on our hands.

Myself & Aisling

The sky had been threatening to spill all day but we were hopefully we'd get through the race before that happened. We took 10 minutes to warm up (unlike last week) so were feeling prepared for the start of the race. As Tuesday (May 6th) was 60 years to the day since Roger Bannister’s broke the 4 minute mile, Loughrea AC commemorated the occasion with a large clock exactly one mile into the 5K route. I thought that was a lovely touch. I'm a KM man myself so despite the fact the Half/Full Marathons are counted in miles, I'll always convert to KM.

Mags, Mike, Michelle, Myself, Gordon, Yvonne, Brad, Aisling & Rob pre run

The run started at 8pm and we were off in a maze of puddle dodging and people swerving for the first kilometre. I passed the clock at the 1 Mile mark just under 7 minutes (6:55). I'd be interested to see what my 1 mile time would be if I was going all out  (as in, just running the mile).


1 Mile Clock
(Pic from edenhill77 - www.flickr.com/photos/edenhill77/14130319764/)

Anyway, after the 2km mark, the course took an uphill turn AND it started to rain. Not suitable! I knew if I could push through I could probably match my time from Athenry the previous week. By 3KM I knew that was probably out of the question (just over 13 minutes). Huffing, I pushed upwards in the rain and hit the 4K sign at 17:41. I knew the last km was entirely downhill and I just decided to go for it.

Course Profile

I flew off at speed towards the finish line (which you could see from the top of the hill at the 4K mark) with the rain battering down as I ran on. As I approached the finish line I had my eyes on the clock and couldn't believe it was still in the 21 minutes region. I crossed the line at 21:47 which was 5s slower than Athenry but on a much harder course in wet conditions. My chip time however: 21:31! BOOM! Knocked 6s off my chip time from last week! I also got a badge for Fastest K on my Nike App (3:50 for the last km!)

BOOM! (Pic from Maree AC's Facebook)


It was a tough course but I enjoyed it. Looking at my pace, I certainly know to keep whatever is left in the tank for the end of the race and to push through that way for a shorter race. I won't be running next week as I'm marshalling for the Maree leg of the 5K Series.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Great Limerick Run - Half Marathon #5

This was the unexpected Half Marathon, one I hadn't planned on even entering but last weekend, Sean from Amphibian King contacted me to offer me a place. How could I resist? Running (especially races) have become like a juicy dangling chocolate dipped carrot! I jumped at the offer and signed up on Monday for entry in the Half Marathon. It has been 4 weeks since the Connemarathon and while I've still been running, I haven't run further than 6K in the past 4 weeks. I've changed focus to cycling but can't seem to shift the running bug.



I spent Saturday in Limerick, but it was late (5pm) by the time I got out to UL to the GLR Expo. It was quite disappointing leave with no t-shirt though, as after I had collected my race bib we found out there was only XL T-shirts left so I didn't take one (what was the point?). On Sunday morning, I got ready and my Mam kindly offered to drop me in to Limerick which just removed the 'Where the hell am I going to park?' gout I normally go though before a race.

On your marks...

I made my way to the start line near Peoples Park with over half an hour to spare. I used the time to warm up with a couple of laps around the park incorporating a few stretches. As soon as the pacers appeared, I made my way up near the start line along with the 1800 other runners taking part in the half marathon which was scheduled to start at 11:45. The sky was ominously grey all morning and looked like it was planning on bucketing on us as soon as the race started. At 11:45 on the nose, the gun fired and we were off...

And they're off (Pic found on Twitter)

It took the first 2km's for me to find my 'personal space' in the crowd. The route was littered with cones which made navigation in the crowd difficult but once I had found my own pace and space, the crowd carried me for the first part of the race. I always find running large races on my own strange as I never have a landmark to anchor myself against when imagining where friends are in the same race (e.g. Philip would have passed here 10 minutes ago).

The first half passed without much incident. I maintained a steady 4:45/km pace and had the 1:40 pacers in my sights the whole time. My previous HM best was 1:41 in Kinvara and for this race, I didn't feel as prepared so wasn't ready mentally to put myself ahead of them. I do believe this actually worked to my advantage for this race as I always had their balloons within my sights.

The run brought me around all the landmarks from Limerick I am so used to but had never connected the paths between. From Peoples Park to the Hospital, passed The Crescent Shopping Centre and back into the City Centre. It was weird to be so close to the finish line (on O'Connell St) and yet only half way around the course. That being said, it was such a boost to run with crowds cheering you on from the sides! As I passed the 12K mark, I was papped by one of the Amphibian King photographers (she must have recognised my shirt!)

Thumbs Up! (Pic taken from Amphibian King's FB)

The course continued down by the river before circling back over the main bridge and away from the city (Ennis Rd). I think this was my favourite part of the entire race because of the barrier separating you heading outbound with runners coming in to finish the race. We (Half Marathoners) were wearing Orange Bibs while the Full Marathoners had Blue. The Full Marathon started at 9am. My Nike App informed me I had crossed 13K at the 1 hour mark, so I knew these guys heading in towards the finish were about to cross the finish line at 3:45-3:50 which I would hope would be my time had I run it.

The half route brought us around in sight of King John's Castle before we headed up towards Thomond Park before we turned left into housing estates near St. Camillus's. It was around here (15K), I passed John L who was running the Marathon. I gave him a quick few words of encouragement as I've been there. That was another interesting part of this run. In Connemara, the Marathon runners met the Half runners and I found it so tough to keep on running while lots of Halfers were overtaking me. Its hard to know if you are better off with everyone in the same boat or having some new fresher blood come along to motivate you along.

The route continued along the Ennis Rd back towards the city before turning right in and around some more estates. The footpaths were lined with kids, parents and friends of runners holding signs and bowls of jellies. It was really fantastic to see and a huge motivator when all you want to do is stop or slow down. As I passed the 20K mark, I realised how important a crowd is for the experience of any race. I don't know if they really know how much their presence on the side of the street means but sometimes even just making eye contact with someone clapping makes it feel like its for you and pushes you on that little bit more.

I had 1K to go and my clock was reading 1:35 so I knew if I dug deep, I could pass the finish line with a new Personal Best. The last kilometre brought me back up over the bridge we passed at 13K. The 6 mile hadn't started yet so the bridge was pretty empty as I ran towards O'Connell St. I could feel my legs ramp up for a strong finish as I turned onto the final stretch and could see the clock read 1:40 in the distance. 

I crossed the line at 1:41:02 - giving me an official chip time of 1:40:32, knocking over a minute off my Kinvara Half time! For a race I started not feeling too prepared for, it was my new Half best. Delighted with myself, I made my way through the banana & water stands and out the other side where I got to watch the 10,000 6-milers start their run. 

New Bling!

All in all, what a run! The Great Limerick Run really surprised me! I went into it with an extremely neutral attitude, not too bothered with the outcome of the race. This is what I have learned from this race: Don't surrender your accomplishments to your inner beliefs. What I mean by that is: If I had finished this in 2:00 hours, I'd have put it down to the fact I hadn't been training for the past month. What I do find incredible is the fact I could just turn up WITHOUT proper planning and not only run a half marathon, but PB it!

I feel like I really want to shift up a gear and actually start doing speed work and interval sessions to work on my speed however I have already committed myself to giving cycling the next twelve week block to focus on for the Ring of Kerry so I'll stick with that like I promised myself. Limerick, you were awesome!


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Dine in the Dark

On Wednesday, myself and my better half went along to Cava's 'Dine in the Dark' event. Cava is a Spanish Cuisine and Tapas restaurant in Galway run by JP McMahon. Now, ye all know I love my food, but the real foodie in our house has to be my other half. While I am interested in food, my curiosity stops as soon as I have eaten whereas my other half is always cooking, experimenting, making new stuff and trying different recipes and dishes out.

Dine in the Dark was such a different experience for both of us. We were shown to our table and given wine while the restaurant filled up. At 8pm the evening kicked off when we were given a brief introduction to the evening. We were told that most of the information we process about food comes to us visually. Interestingly, touch and taste were the two least senses we use when it comes to food which is crazy when you think about it.

Waiting at out table for us...

We were instructed to put on our blindfolds and the evening started! We were given 5 courses (of which I have no pictures as I was blindfolded) each served with an accompanying wine. It was a mix of scary WTF moments and hilarity as the evening progressed. The first course felt like I was eating a slug. The second plate tasted mousse-y. The third plate was crispy and wet. The fourth plate was hot and cold, sweet and sour. The final plate was dessert - I'd know a dessert plate a mile off and I knew exactly what I was eating. 

JP in the dark!

The whole experience lasted two hours and was brilliant. Everything from fumbling around for my knife and fork on the table to wondering how you were going to pour water, from feeling around the plate to make sure you had nothing left behind to guessing what colour the wine you were drinking - it was an experience everyone should have at least once.

Dine in the Dark menu

The best thing about any experience is the different things people take from them. On dissecting the night, myself and my other half had two completely different experiences. He enjoyed trying to piece together the individual components of each dish, trying to work out what they were made of like he was solving some Jessica Fletcher case. I on the other hand discovered a number of things about me.

Without the visual, I couldn't gauge how much I was eating/had eaten. If you had asked me to put what I thought I had eaten back on each plate, I'd be totally taking a stab in the dark. After the event, the chef passed around each plate so we could see what we had eaten on each course. I couldn't believe how 'little' I had eaten over the 5 courses compared to what it had felt like I'd eaten.

Snack #1 and #2 (Taken from JP's Instagram)

Course #3 - Pig and Prawns (Taken from JP's Instagram)

The next thing I couldn't believe is how much I don't savour or appreciate the taste of what I am eating. As this kind of felt like a test, I wanted to make intelligent guesses as to what I was eating. I was quite surprised for example to realise I had eaten crispy fish skin when I thought it was pork crackling. What I had thought was a light mousse turned out to be a fig! Hello - how could I get it so wrong?

I think because I don't cook, I don't have the same appreciation for tastes and flavours as others do when it comes to savoury. I also have discovered (this is hardly newsflash worthy) that I am so much more of a sweet guy than a savoury guy. Give me a nice dessert any day over a starter! All in all, we had a super night with lots of wine, food and taste experiences!