Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Marathon #6 - The 2015 Dublin City Marathon

Two years ago this weekend, I ran my first marathon in Dublin - so there was something very welcoming about returning to the scene of so many amazing memories for Marathon #6. I travelled to Dublin on Sunday with Vicky by train where we met Mirko. In Heuston Station I met my friend's friend (Ricky) who was in Dublin especially for the marathon so together, the four of us grabbed a cab over to the Expo in the RDS to collect our race packs and see what was on show.

At the Expo with Ricky (left), Michelle & Joe (top) and Catherine & Vicky (bottom)

We were in and out within half an hour and we all went our separate carb-loading ways. Myself and Ricky headed into the city where we grabbed a Starbucks (ya, I had a Pumpkin Spice Latte), Murphy's Ice-cream and a drink in Panti Bar before heading home early. I was in bed by 10:30pm and I slept straight through until my alarm went off at 6:30am. I had breakfast, got ready and was out the door before 8am. I met up with Ricky and we made our way to the start area where we actually didn't have as much time as I thought we would waiting around.

Start Line

My goal was to run this in 3:50 so I placed myself at the back of Wave 1 (behind the 3:40 pacers) and my plan was to try run a 1:55 each half. That meant maintaining a 5:27/km pace which I felt was achievable. I ran Berlin four weeks previous at a 5:38/km pace but felt the conditions in Dublin (less crowded, less humid) would help. 

The race started at 9am but I kind-of missed the buzz as I was so far back. It was about 2 minutes later when we crossed the start line and headed off on the 42.2km run around the city. I wasn't too far into the run when I just didn't feel 100%. As the run progressed I noticed I kept getting alternating stitches which has never happened before and my stomach felt... heavy. I ignored the niggles as sometimes on a run your mind has a devilish way of playing tricks on you. It's usually lying so I chose to ignore it and run on. My time splits were working according to my plan and I hit 5K at 27:15 which was to the second, bang on track.

The first half was beautiful, damp and windy at parts as we ran up through Phoenix Park, through Castleknock, back into the Park and out through Kilmainham. I clocked Half Way at 1:53 which was two minutes ahead of my planned 1:55 but my body was really struggling. I was keeping myself distracted by taking in the incredible atmosphere from the crowd (Just a side note but I've never experienced anything like the Dublin crowd - so many people with signs, jellies, water and t-shirts). 

I crossed the 30K mark at 2:43 which again was bang on track for a 3:55 finish but I just couldn't do it! I knew quitting wasn't an option but my legs were starting to burn and I just couldn't shake off the stitch. It was shortly afterwards I walked for the first time and I think mentally that broke me. My pace chart paints the picture in a way so I'll save the gory details.

Roebuck/Heartbreak Hill really was tough but I used the opportunity to walk. Again, this is where the spectators really came through with every second one giving me words of encouragement and really willing you up that hill - I even saw Ray Darcy at the top applauding as people made their way around the corner. The run in along the Stillorgan Rd was tough as many people were walking or like myself, were completely knackered. Walking is always so tempting but I figured even if I was clocking up 6:30/km, it was faster than walking (10:00/km). It was on Nutley Lane at Mile 24 when the 3:50 pacers passed me I really felt broken. I knew as we turned onto Merrion Rd it was a straight 3km to the finish line and I was at 3:36 on my watch. 

I really wish I could tell you I dug deep and unlocked some magic from deep within but I couldn't. As I walked passed the RDS (Mile 25), I saw Helen from Maree AC cheering me on from the sideline. I really wanted to run fast or lie down but my legs were twinging and I was afraid they'd cramp up on me. I clocked a 7:00/km as I came through Ballsbridge. I dragged myself down Northumberland Rd and across the finish line as the clock read 4:00:55. 

Everything hurt as I made my way through the finishers' area. There was no glowing sense of pride, my heart didn't leap with a sense of achievement. I collected my medal (which was lovely) and I hobbled out of the runners' area and made my way back to Yvonne & Gordon (who were very kindly waiting to bring me home).

Tough runs don't last - tough runners do! This hasn't broken me or derailed me in any way but I think I've learned something new about myself and running yet again - I really gave it (the run) everything I had and despite the fact it wasn't enough for me to reach the goal I had set myself, I finished my 6th marathon. I had just run my 4th marathon this year (my 2nd in 4 weeks). I don't know why I can be so hard on myself but I really need to get a grip. I'm fit & healthy and ABLE to run a marathon. Full stop - that should be more than enough. 

Everyone who crossed the start line had the exact same course to run, similar mental battles and varying levels of coping with it. Sometimes you power through the run, sometimes the run overpowers you. Dublin was fantastic, it just wasn't for me on the day. I'm still happy I ran it and I still think it has to be one of the best out there if you are going to do one! Dublin may have conquered me yesterday but don't worry... I'll fight back! See you next year Dublin :)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Short Road to Marathon #6

Last month I clocked up another notch in my marathon belt completing Marathon #5 in Berlin in just over 3 hours 58 minutes. I got home from Germany on Monday and that night signed up for Dublin, Marathon #6. I'm not going to lie... it's been the 'easiest' training I've ever had to do for a marathon simply because I had only four weeks to prepare. My longest run was a Half Marathon before I started tapering back down again.

Three Weeks to go...

Two weeks to go...

One week to go...

I can't believe how quickly the past four weeks have flown and how quickly I jumped back in the driving seat in terms of running. Every other time I've finished a marathon I've taken the following few weeks off from running completely. I ran the Cork Marathon on June 1st and my next run was June 23rd.

I feel ready for Dublin - I just hope I've done enough to bring me to my goal. I'd love to come in under 3:50 - that's the aim. Considering I'm trying to knock 8 minutes off my last marathon time, I'm hoping the conditions on Monday work in my favour. It was warmer and busier in Berlin than I had expected so I'm hoping a cooler, less packed course will work to my advantage. The weather isn't meant to be great but when can you ever rely on weather in Ireland. It rained throughout the entire Cork Marathon in June.

So to each of the 15,000 runners taking part in the Dublin Marathon - I wish you the very best of luck. The hard work is done... all that stands between you and the finish line is the last 26.2 miles!

Monday, 12 October 2015

The NUI Galway 8K

I signed up for this race a few weeks ago but it was more from FOMO as opposed to really wanting to do it. I haven't been over in NUIG since I graduated back in 2008 so I was looking forward to running around the campus and seeing how much it had changed. I arrived over at the university just before 9am on Saturday morning and I picked up my race pack before finding parking (which was actually more stressful than you'd think in a university!)

With Yvonne & Gordon before the race

We hung around the start area chatting for the hour before the race before making our way to the start line which was just under the Quincentennial Bridge. The race started bang on 10am and the rain stayed away (despite the few drops earlier). The route took us up around the IT Building (where I spent many hours staring out at the river when I was doing my Masters) and around under the concourse before we passed the start line and made our way up through Corrib Village and Dangan.

On your marks...

It took a while to get through the crowd but once I found my stride I was happy out. At one point half way around, I had a grand 5 minute chat with a man who was training for the Dublin Marathon. I've never had a friendly chat during a race before but I guess there is always a first! :) After we rounded the pitches in Dangan, we ran 3km back towards the university along the river edge. It was absolutely fab! 

The last kilometre took us back through the campus and around by the Marine Building, in front of the Quad and up around by the library. I was quite surprised at how the landscape of the university had changed so much in the time since I'd left. Most existing buildings had massive new extensions (the library and Arts Millenium building being the most noticeable) and there were plenty of new buildings around Corrib Village also.

I crossed the finish line at 36:30 which I was really chuffed with. There was water, fruit & coffee as post-race refreshments so I helped myself to one of each! Gordon crossed the line about a minute after I did so we hung around waiting for Yvonne who knocked a over three minutes off her Streets of Galway time. My Chip Time was 36:17 and I finished 68th (out of 526) which isn't too bad in fairness. I was just 20s off my fastest 8K time which was quite surprising considering I'd felt quite heavy/tired in my legs throughout the race.

The best thing to come from the race (which was great!) is that myself and Yvonne have our Halloween costumes sorted now... *Hello 118 118*

Thursday, 8 October 2015

My 5-Week Challenge - The Results!

Five weeks before the Berlin Marathon, while out running, I set myself a challenge (link) to go without fizz (carbonated drinks of any kind), sweets, chocolate and crisps until after the marathon. The reason for this was to try and kick-start whatever equilibrium I've been stuck at weight-wise all Summer. On August 25th (my three year WW anniversary), I weighed in at 14st 1lb which although is over 5st lighter than I was when I started - it is also 2st heavier than I was at my lightest, 1lb off goal.

That same morning I was at Bootcamp and Tom (Mr Bootcamp) had us doing laps carrying a Wall Ball (which weighs 6kg). I couldn't believe the difference it made to run while holding it, 6kg is just under a stone (13lbs). Now, I'm not a slave to the scales and I know that just weight does not reflect overall health. I've had my Body Fat Analysis done along with my bloods (cholesterol etc) and everything is in the green zone so overall I'm healthy, I'm just not entirely happy with my weight. 

I couldn't help but think how much 'easier' running a marathon would be if I was carrying less weight, hence my five week challenge. Giving up the fizz was surprisingly straight forward. From someone who used to drink over 2 litres a day, I can't believe how easy the swop was. I'm now drinking over 2l of water a day and I feel fifty times better for it. My skin feels (and looks) so much better, my gut/stomach doesn't feel bloated and the biggest surprise for me is how uncoated my teeth are in the morning (which I crazy really!)

Bye bye Pepsi!

The sweets, chocolate and crisps was a harder ordeal. It felt like at every coffee break, someone brought in biscuits or homemade treats. Every coffee shop had a fresh batch of baked goods on display and every Supermarket had a special offer on. The interesting thing however was, I coped surprisingly well because I knew WHY I was staying off treats and I knew it was only for a short few weeks. I wasn't saying goodbye forever, it must more of a 'see you later!'.

5 Weigh-ins Later...

Five weeks later I was down 8.5lbs! I made absolutely no changes to my breakfast, lunch or dinners. I ate the same amount of fruit as usual and I drank the same amount, just it was all water. I'm not really painting a pretty picture but despite it sounding drastic - it really wasn't. I knew the temporary 'sacrifices' I was making at the time were only going towards making for an 'easier' marathon experience... and I feel it paid off!

Anna at the Finish Line (with Chocolate!)

When I crossed the finish line, my friend Anna was waiting with the most delicious box of Lindt Chocolates and I'm not going to lie... I scoffed the box in one go! Whats interesting is... over the past two weeks I'm back eating sweets & chocolate but in moderation and I think thats the key. Whats even more interesting is... I still haven't had a single fizz drink because I really don't miss it. I'm constantly surprised at how much water I drink and how a splash of Mi-Wadi or a squeeze of Lemon Juice actually mixes it up when I fancy something outside of straight up water.

As I said above, my challenge had nothing to do with removing or restricting anything from my daily food intake, but I just wanted to become aware of how ofter I was going for a diet coke or a curly-wurly. My problem has never been the food I eat at the dinner table, it's always been everything else. Those two sneaky biscuits at 11am coffee break, a curly-wurly to fight the 3pm slump. 

Overall I'm delighted with the kick-start, it was just what I needed to re-energise myself and allow myself to be more mindful of the quality of what you put into your body as opposed to just filling it with meaningless calories.

"No it's grand... I'm just having the ONE cookie"

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Life You Want Event with Weight Watchers

I was so honoured to be asked to be part of the Weight Watchers 'The Life You Want' event which took place in the South Court Hotel in Limerick last weekend. I didn't really know what to expect in terms of how the day was going to play out but honestly, it was just brilliant. The day was cram-packed with cooking demos, incredible motivating talks and talks from loads of interesting people thrown in to the mix.

I arrived at about 9:30am and walked straight into Verette, an incredible WW leader from Limerick who I have been following online for ages! Not only is she a mega-WW-leader, she also runs her own cooking classes just outside Limerick (check out her website: www.abetterme.ie). I also met Catherine who is the fantastic Gort/Ennistymon leader. After a quick run down of how the day was going to play out, the room filled up with the 100+ attendees and Maura Derrane stepped out on stage and does what she does best... hosted the day!

With Verette (left), Michael & Mary (top centre), Hilary (top right) before kick-off

I was up first, so I hopped up on stage and had a 15 minute chat with Maura. She was lovely and asked the kind of questions I had forgotten about myself such as 'What motivated you to get started?' and 'How did you lose 7st?'. I answered every question as honestly as I could. Sometimes I forget to credit myself along the way but I really do think my breaking point was Croagh Patrick. Weight Watchers gave me the tools and means to control and measure what I was eating. Running came afterwards but I do think that has been key to overhauling my life.

On stage with Maura

Up next was a guy called Michael O'Doherty, a bio-energy healer who absolutely blew my mind. I was hanging on his every word as he spoke about the interdependencies of the body and energy and the power of the mind. As I sat there listening to him, he said something that I honestly think will stick with me forever... He spoke about how the pathway to success requires three things from the mind:

1: Belief - 2: Commit - 3: Sacrifice

I have honestly never considered the 'sacrifice' part of any mind/goal-setting exercise before but it totally makes sense. I had never considered sacrifice as part the equation before but as he spoke, it was like a hundred light-bulbs went off simultaneously in my head. You can't do everything and everything you do takes from the time you could be spending doing something else. Running takes from your couch time, Sleeping in takes from your food-preparation time. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for any future workshops he is doing. His website is www.michaelodoherty.com.

Michael O'Doherty (Pic from RSVP - Link)

Up next we had Verette who was an absolute star in her make-shift stage kitchen. She was funny, articulate, confident and informative all at the same time. I'd really love to be in one of her WW classes, I can't see how anyone could leave one of her classes other than pumped and ready for the week ahead. I also really need to get myself to one of her cookery classes. She made everything look so easy. She even kept one of her Pecan Muffins to one side for me. She also whipped up an incredible smelling Pasta Bake but I figured I'd let others sample that seen as I knew she was making Brownies next (and had penciled myself in for one!).

Verette from Verette's Kitchen (Pic from RSVP - Link)

The afternoon continued with on-stage chats with Dr. Jamie O'Sullivan, a Clinical Psychologist who spoke about relationships & Aisling O'Loughlin from Xpose who spoke about motherhood and its pressures. Mark Rodgers (from Benefit) gave a make-up tutorial so now I know how to contour if anyone needs any tips. Maura then interviewed Roisin Meeney (Author) who recounted how she changed her life from school teacher to published (No. 1 Best-selling) author. The afternoon was so engaging listening to other people give advice and speak from experience about how they changed their lives.

Mark (Pic from RSVP - Link)

Another massive highlight was the two fashion shows - not because I wanted a gawk at the latest fashions, but rather I could see people step outside their comfort zone and model clothes on stage in front of a room full of people. Their confidence has come from their weight-loss but really I know it was buried inside them all along. I lost count of the 'Total Stones Lost' as each people came out on stage radiating! Weight Watchers has changed my life and given me so many opportunities I'd never have even considered previously - it's amazing to see people grab opportunities their new lease of life has given them...

Fashion Show

The afternoon was wrapped up with a talk by Mary Kerin (Nutritional Therapist) & Colm O'Brien (Life Coach). Mary spoke about nutrition and the importance of getting variety & minerals in your diet. She said something which I'm still thinking about now: When you go to bed at night, make sure you've eaten something from every colour of the rainbow. She also has me thinking about how I can incorporate seaweed into my diet! Her website is: www.marykerin.net

Colm O'Brien is a failed businessman, turned successful businessman, turned Life Coach who went through a number of exercises with us about goal setting and focusing on what you want to be. I have to say, I really enjoyed his talk and already have downloaded his audio book (it's free, check it out here: www.feedingjohnny.com).

The event wrapped up with a glass of Prosecco shortly before 5pm and I have to say, it was a truly wonderful day. I have to hand it to Weight Watchers, it was a brilliant event and a brave move to see an event like this being held outside Dublin. I think a lot of companies (in general) forget about the rest of Ireland outside Dublin so to see an event like this being run close to home was an absolute delight. I really hope to see more events of this kind over the coming year.

The event was advertised as a 'Live the Life you Want' event and it really delivered. It was so different to what we hear at a regular WW class yet every speaker said something that you could apply to personal goals, weight loss and work towards improving your quality of life. In the end, we are only responsible for our own successes - I always strive to learn from my mistakes and try to be a better person. Isn't that all everyone wants? Regardless of how long it takes, what matters is that we keep moving forward, keep an eye on our goals and have wonderful experiences along the way... Saturday in the South Court Hotel was most definitely one of those experiences I will never forget.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Marathon #5: Berlin

Myself and Brad headed to Berlin on Friday, two days before the Marathon. This, it turns out was a genius move as it meant we could go to the Expo as soon as we landed. I've never had to queue for more than 5 minutes for my race bib before but bloody hell this was something else. We arrived at Tempelhof Airport, the Expo venue at around 3:30pm on Friday afternoon and the place was wedged. We made our way through disused airport and its hangers following the 'Race Number Pick Up' signs along the floor where we were eventually met a security gate like screening area where we were given wristbands (for entry on Sunday) and our bibs and chips. 

We were over an hour just looking at the many many stands at the Expo, each one offering either the promise of the 'most beautiful', 'friendliest' or 'flattest' marathon in its region while other stands offered every variety of running fuel/shoe/clothing imaginable. After a coffee and look around the food stands, we decided to jump ship glad we sailed around pretty seamlessly just imagining the crowds that would descend on the place the following day.

We spent Saturday doing touristy things like walking along the East Side Gallery/Berlin Wall, visiting the Brandenburg Gate all while carb loading in preparation. Despite the best intentions of being in bed by 10pm Saturday night, I was still lying awake after midnight with excitement for the marathon. This is the first time I've been genuinely excited with 26.2 miles looming overhead. 

My alarm went off at 6:30am and we had a quick breakfast in the hostel before making our way over to the start line. It seemed like everyone in Berlin was headed for the Brandenberg Gate on Sunday morning with the blue 'entry' band on. Hundreds filled the underground where we merged with hundreds others as we arrived at the entry zone. 

Myself and Brad said our goodbyes and best of lucks at about 8:50am as we had to be in our starting corrals for 9am. I was in G, Brad was in H. I don't think the photos below capture the atmosphere and excitement as I stood with over 40000 others while the start was counted down. Hundreds of balloons were released as at 9am as the first pen headed off. What I wasn't expecting was the 25 minute wait before my group finally took off.

The run itself was incredible. The first thing that I still can't get my head around was the sheer amount of other runners. It was exciting, it was fun but it was semi-dangerous. People were constantly clipping heels and I saw a few people trip up/fall. A few times someone would accidentally clip one of my heels which throws your balance off if not prepared for it.

The first water stop (at 5km) was certainly an experience - the entire field in front of me nearly came to a stand still as people crossed in front of others grabbing and spilling plastic cups of water all over the place. We were running through inches of crushed plastic for about the next 500m - As disappointed as I was that we didnt get bottles, I can see why they couldn't... someone would have been killed!

The other thing I wasn't expecting was the heat. Weather reports had said it would be about 9deg and overcast but we actually got quite a warm morning with blue skies. It was 20 degrees by noon but there were water stops nearly every 3/4kms which really helped keep hydrated. (I quickly learned how to indicate you were moving in to grab water and manoeuvre back out into the running lane).

The spectators and supporters were absolutely incredible - and really made the kilometres pass quite easily. I saw old people banging pots with wooden spoons, young families waving their country flags from balconies above the crowds, a student flat which had set up massive speakers and were blaring 'Walk Like an Egyptian' while the crowd beneath danced. My favourite was probably the lady in the tin-foil dress with the blow-up guitar moonwalking to Scooter.

As I ran, I stayed looking through the crowd. It's a completely different experience when you know you aren't going to see your loved ones face in the crowd (he stayed home as he was working). As I rounded the corner at 26km, I saw my friend Anna in the crowd and (probably much to her disapproval) I ran up and gave her a giant hug and kiss. Again later around 37km, I saw Stephanie (who I've never met in real life before only know from Twitter) in the crowd so again I ran up and gave her a kiss. I was certainly kiss-happy on Sunday... 

The final few kilometres passed with relative ease (which is kinda crazy to say when I think about it). I had really hoped to break 3:50 but I knew when passing the 40km sign at 3:44 that was out of the question so I took the foot off the accelerator a little and really enjoyed the final 2km as we ran through the crowded streets of Berlin towards the Brandenburg Gate and the finish line which I knew lay just beyond it. A wave of emotion washed over me as I ran under the gate listening to the noise of the crowd - I crossed the finish line at 3:58.

Berlin was fantastic! It delivered everything I had hoped it would and more... (except beating my previous marathon time but I'll forgive Germany that). The race, the spectators, the route, the runners and the streets all mixed together made for one hell of a marathon. I don't know if anything will ever match the feeling I had when I finished Dublin (my first marathon) but this came a very close second. It was most definitely the 'easiest' marathon I've run (as if you could ever call a marathon easy but you know what I mean) and it left me feeling slightly sore but pumped for the next one!