Month: January 2017

Motoring on rightly

Motoring on rightly

It was just one of those minging evenings.

Cold -check

Windy- check

Wet- soaking

It had all the signs of a group run being called off and I knew Dermot had considered it earlier in the afternoon. Secretly I was waiting for the message. I’d had such a pain of a day and an unendless list of things to do, I could have done with skipping the session. 

However I missed my long run yesterday and let’s face it if I skipped session what type of example is that setting to those who made the effort. 

So week 4 and the first real test of the commitment to the programme. As 7pm came and one by one everyone stepped out of their cars it became apparent who the hard core crew where and there was more than just a handful.

Soon we were warming up and getting set for what lay ahead. 

I had made the decision after last week that tonight I wasn’t about time. I was going to avoid the clock watching and just run. It was the best decision I’ve made all week. I was relaxed and I was just going with the flow.

Even when we reached the half way point and got to turn, leading the group I was confident in my pace and that it wasn’t beyond the pace of the group. Normally I’d be stuck to my watch, watching every second of the pace and trying to maintain it. But just trusting my feet and going forward was liberating and enjoyable.

We easily managed 2.8 without stopping at below 12.30min/miles. A respectable pace and one that I am sure many of the group can exceed already in training runs. Not that the aim of the group is time, hopefully they don’t become as attached to the machine on their arm and just run without the self doubt and reliance on a watch making the run. 

So new week ahead and a positive start to the weeks training. In just a few weeks the group has grown in confidence and belief that what they thought was impossible is every much within their abilities. I’m excited what the final few weeks hold for the group. But right now I hope they’ve all warmed up and dried off. 

Also for the record…didn’t get a hug this week…gutted.

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Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Exactly. ..I can think of 20 million other things I could have been doing with bath, jammies and a wee drink in front of the TV top of my list of potential options.

Caitriona and Siobhan on another whirlwind adventure

But no… another ‘great idea’ unveiled itself and low and behold there was Caitriona and I out in our brightest of bright, lining up with not only the other mad hatters of the MAC Machine but 500 others to take on the 26 Extreme, Mourne Way 10k, Night Edition race.

The mad eejits of Murlough AC with smiles through fear of the unknown 

It was reassuring to know as we lined up for our packs that everyone was thinking the same thing. Why? Why? Why? Did we really think this would be a good idea 2 months ago? But all forms of hi vis and head lamps where aplenty and it was again an unseasonably mild January evening. 

With glow sticks in hand which I have to say was very exciting indeed as we relived the night’s out in the 90s. We headed to the buses that where to transport us to the start line by Santa’s Cottage.

I was secretly hoping that Ian and the guys at 26 Extreme could have talked ‘santa’ into lighting up his cottage for us however not this year…maybe next time.

Spirits where high and as the MAC crew comendered the back of the bus like school kids on a field trip everyone was in good spirits. (I don’t know why none of us took a picture of that)

Driving up the pitch dark road, the grandeur of some of the houses in and around Kilbroney became very apparent. Also the question of their lack of blinds to leave something to the imagination for those passing, did come up. 

As you looked down the bus there was many a creative way to wear the glow sticks. From the normal round your wrist and around shoe laces to being braided into your hair and as Kate described it…ponytails that looked like a game of Kerplunk. 

As we filtered off buses and to the start line, the many torches lit up the night and all the hi vis clothing along with it including Caitrionas sight for sore eyes jacket. It also was very clear to spot those who had done Dublin Marathon  with their head torches courtesy of the goodie bag. I was very grateful for mine that’s for sure.

Caitriona lighting up the night

Lining up we bumped into many familiar faces and it was the face of Newry City Runner, Jennifer Mc Ateer that was to stick by Caitriona and myself to help turn this race into an experience full of craic and laughs whilst we spent 10k righting the world’s wrongs.
I knew to enjoy the first 1km as it was going to pretty much be the only tarmac we would be running on. However I’d too many layers on and the jacket ended up round the waist pretty quickly. As we entered into Leitrim Lodge the rough terrain was the start of 2 miles of challanging terrain under foot.  

However putting aside the terrain, what could be experienced by the eyes was majestic. Ahead and behind was just lines of lights and his vis. I wasn’t too familiar with the route as I marshalled last year at the MWM so putting faith in Jennifers ample experience of what lay ahead was reassuring.

Photo courtsey of Macscape Photography

There are so many things I loved along the way. The fact it was just us runners. No cars,  not many people about, just us plodding along. The sight of the people in front lighting the way. The team work of everyone ensuring that lumps, bumps and stumps where highlighted down the line. The night time views of the lights below. And of course the infamous 26 Extreme cake at the half way point. Which to be fair just transported me back to mile 9 of Causeway Coast in Sept when it was like the lamb of God. Good times.

The pictures just dont do it justice

Pace was steady minus the second mile where we had to be that bit more careful. However it was Friday night and let’s face it we had all had a tough week at work so treated it like as an opportunity to destress, laugh and take a few pictures. 

It was definitely a course of what goes up, does come down. And boy did it come down very quickly.  I had totally lost my bearings but following the lights ahead I had no fear that I was going to be lost indefinitely at any stage.

Finally I hit a familiar track from the ladies mini marathon/b2r Kilbroney 10k and loved the fact that I knew it was all downhill from there. 

As the sound of 96 classic by JX- There’s Nothing I Won’t Do, blasted out in the distance, we knew the finish line was near. As we turned the corner to the finish I was soon mobbed by Jennifer on the line quite literally.  Caitriona did add that it was a hilarious scene as we both scrambled for the finish line. Times showed we finished exactly the same time. Much to our amusement. 

Happy post race smiles 

What started off as a ‘what the hell were we thinking’ sort if evening, ended as a ‘when can we do it again’ night.

Flawless the whole way, from pack collection to buses, the route was well marked and marshalled leading to an upbeat and smooth operating finish line. Well done 26 Extreme, logistical nightmare turned into the perfect dream by your team. 
On another note though…Caitrionas jacket that she picked up in Primark was a hit. Literally a sight for sore eyes every time I turned around to talk to her. However she did say she’s glad the jacket stopped me from turning round as my torch was too bright. So moral of the story when night running is just keep looking straight ahead unless you’re watching out for the blue lady in Tollymore, the headless horseman in Castlewellan or Michael Mc Kenna in general.

Always beware when Kenny is about!

When you know the “beginners” are already faster than you.

Endurance.

 The only skill I have on my side. As the 3rd session of The Running Coaches does Newcastle came to a close.

Work on endurance first and then focus on speed and distance, Dermot says. Hmm I thought to myself, OK they may all be faster than me but I know I’d be the last one running if it was who the last one to give up was. 

Tonight the group was pushed to hit the 5k mark, they actually went beyond that mark. It’s so clear how strong the group is and they were more than capable than running the distance with the short breaks in between. Definite talent and hopefully faces that I’ll see in the future more often.

However when I looked down and looked at the time I actually felt really shit. OK I was buzzing for the group. It was a fantastic achievement for them and I was really proud of them all. Yet inside I got a wake up call. 3.2 mile in 40minutes. Running, walking and talking and I was able to get that time with the group messing about. But why so sad…well my Kilbroney Park Run was just over a minute faster than this and I did sort of try at that.

Like seriously.  It’s embarrassing. OK my time trial on similar terrain is 33 minutes and I should essentially be focused on that but although I can seemingly run forever I still should be better.

So although tonight was a magnificent achievement for the group it’s opened my eyes to my own running. I’m feeling a bit sad in myself yet hopefully that maybe this epiphany will be the start of me doing something about it.

So back to the plan and sticking by it. The runners in the group are sticking by their weekly plans and improving …only right that I do that too.

Hello double figures and hello old faithful 

This week I turned 32…this was also the first week I pretty much stuck to my training plan. With age comes maturity and ability to stick to a plan…well for a few days anyway.

Saturday saw the plan dictate to me that I’d to break back into the double figures. I know I managed Castleward a few weeks back and pulled 17mile out of the legs that day, but it was strategy and suited my style of running. However 10 solid miles with no breaks was a different prospect. 

Of course there is only 1 place I would tackle such milage and well I was last there the week before Dublin marathon. So a return to the lake for multiple laps was long over due. Of course it was only right that my company for the run was to be Caitriona. 

Waking up on Saturday morning the ground was covered in a heavy frost. Every blade of grass was thick with bright white frost and you could feel the chill down your body as you contemplated why in God’s name where you even thinking about going out in that. 

The previous nights plan of capri trousers was soon replaced by fleece lined long tights. 

Soon it was 9am and we headed for the park. We were no more than a mile in and I had to ditch the jacket. The advantages of the park are many, access to toilet, good routes and water. But my favourite bit of the park is the rangers hut. My very own personal storage station. So dropped my jacket there and headed for a few laps of the lake.

Caitriona did question my seemingly mad reasoning to opt to take a layer off so early but I overheat quickly. However we were not even a lap in and she had to ditch a layer too. Of course the one thing the lake doesn’t have is somewhere to change enroute. So right in the middle of the path there was Caitriona stripping down to her bra to take off her base layer and put on her tshirt and jacket again.

Luckily there wasn’t many people about but as much as I wanted to take a photo to use a leverage, I’m a good person and rather write about it and let you all visualise it. 

As the miles clocked up slowly and steadily, what was a frosty and cold start had turned into a beautiful mild winters morning and as each mile passed more and more people were seen on the lake. 

I’ve missed the lake. The initial procrastination through the first KM as you start yet another lap. The inner joy as you reach the first hill as you’ve over come the urge to walk. Hitting the top of the lake and the view right down to the far side. And of course my favourite view on the home straight which was just majestic 

So the love affair has been rekindled just in time as I flirt with the start of the Derry Marathon training.  

So another week begins and although I’m sitting with ice packs on my legs right now. I know that there are many more miles to be done, many more views to enjoy and most of all many more hours shared with those who fancy a wee run out with me.

Throwback to Crossing the boarder for the biggest challange yet…for everyone else

​Well what can I say.

The atmosphere in the car this morning wasn’t it’s usual upbeat pre race craic. They meant business. 

With enough sweets to fill a pick n mix and caffeine laced gels you’d think we were going raving. 

I was strangely calm and relaxed however I knew 10k had been achieved in my worst state ever last week so I’d nothing to worry about. It was the 13.1 mile that lay ahead of the other 4 that was dictating the mood of the day.

Between multiple trips to the toilet and a hesitant pre race photo, the call for the half runners was heard and off like little lost sheep, they followed the crowds of blue bibs. 

I swear I was near sick for them, I even cried as I was nervous about the half I wasn’t even running. As they set off I’d the joys of cheering them on at the 1.5k mark before making my way back to the start line.  

It’s lonely when at a race on your own. So went to talk to the only man I knew…the Avonmore Milk Man!  

I finally set off and at every distance marking I wondered how the crazies where doing. It was a beautiful morning with views as far as my broken eyes could see. I found the joy in running and settled into a nice pace.

I was feeling good and as I crossed the 9km marker I glanced at my watch and realised that actually I might make a sub 70. I did 😆 and was strange to be the first of us across the line. So went and hung out with Dan the Avonmore man who had got me a whole load of goodies including a kit bag, hat and enough milk to see me through the week! 

As I hung over the railings between the Murlough crowd I spotted Thomas coming and was all biz to cheer on someone I knew! I honestly thought Michael had died as an ambulance flew by but in the distance the bright orange top appeared and he looked a broken man. I’d barely got him deposited on the bank and Avonmore man wanted a photo of me. And there as I smiled …Tara and Jackie came around the corner! 

I swear today I couldn’t have been any more prouder of yous. That was one tough thing to put your body through mentally and physically! Not many people can claim they can do that. 13.1 mile of hell and a few days ahead of recovery. 

You all displayed serious badassery today!  And that concludes #siobhanstories for another day!

The craic at the back 

The craic at the back 

Tonight saw the return of the Newcastle group with the addition of some new faces also to get stuck into week 2 of The Running Coaches, Coached to 5k sessions. 

I’d stuck to my own plan today and had done 4 mile on the hills, quick dip at the Burrendale and was in a cracker mood. Good days like this don’t happen often. I didn’t even give off during homework so running this evening was the only way to round a great day off.

An upbeat and a lot more relaxed group this week as week 1 nerves had passed and confidence that they would survive the session after last week.

Also it was an added bonus to be an unseasonably mild January evening, I really am convinced the weather is bi-polar, with the temperature flirting with double figures after last Fridays deep freeze. 

The sea was calm and a gentle breeze was welcomed. Hats where definitely not required but hi vis was still essential. We were also very glad to welcome Coach Hugh into the group to lead and support the group throughout the session. 

We’re very lucky to have Hugh at Murlough and delighted to see him spreading his knowledge, encouragement and expertise with those new to running. And as always there was Caitriona and myself to balance the boat with a female perspective on running. More on that later.

The group had tried hard throughout the week to make a go of some running in their own time. Some by themselves and some with support. It’s  not easy taking yourself out to train. I myself hate running in public places, probably why my 20 mile training run for Dublin was 8 laps of the lake! Not too much in the open like for example, running road or busy promenades.I could happily do all my training in the confines of the forest park. Less eyes to spot you and in turn talk about you. Paranoid much?

Session got off to a good start with an enjoyable warm up which always gets the heart racing and reminding me I really need to warm up more thoroughly in future a wee skip, hop and jump isn’t sufficient.
As we set off down the promenade in side by side formation, Dermot and Hugh kept everyone right with their form and Caitriona and I kept to the back to keep spirits high. Seemingly now classed as the ‘craic at the back’ catchy lol

The promenade was a lot busier tonight and many fellow MACavisits where out stretching the legs probably saving what they have for Wintervals tomorrow and 6x 800m, boke. 

Some fantastic points and lesson learned at the Slieve Donald Hotel where I was delighted to know we weren’t running the full lap as I’m still scarred from last week’s time trial. 

And we where soon returing to base. 

It was obvious that this week the breaks where getting shorter but it was also clear everyone was beginning to be that bit more comfortable with chatting and balancing the breathing alongside it.I must admit my first session with MAC I could barely say hello during it. I had trained for 6 months on my own, not talking to anyone and then to be expected to hold a conversation…catch yourself on. Needless to say, I have had lots of practice now and can do the running and talking really well.

A thorough cool down by Hugh and feeling well stretched out. The session came to an end with hope that the crew will dig that bit deeper this week and be ready to kick ass next week as  the running becomes longer and the walking shorter.

I’ll admit I’m pretty sure there are quite a few of the group who are well capable of kicking my ass already. Which is great, hopefully they get the bug and realise their potential. I see it.

I am really enjoying being ‘a presence’ at the sessions. I don’t think I’m much assistance however what the male coaches don’t understand is the many obstacles that woman face even in a cool down. There is only so much a sports bra can do to haul ya down. But giggles where had tonight as something as simple as getting your arm to go straight across the top of your chest becomes hard work when you have self grown obstacles in the way! 

And on that point…until next session.

It never fails to amaze me…

It never fails to amaze me…

There is nothing I admire more than someone stepping out of their comfort zone and deciding they are going to so something.

Tonight I witnessed 26 strangers come together and make a stand by taking that step out the door and saying “I’m going to do this.” Whether it was to get fitter, lose weight, do something with friends or just to meet new people, they were there.

I was flattered that Dermot…yeah him again…asked if I was going to put in a guest appearance at the latest addition to The Running Coaches schedule in Newcastle.

OK I’m sure he was taking the piss when he asked but nonetheless I called in my own moral support and Caitriona and myself popped our heads in as people stirred out their car windows and debated about opening their doors to take on the Coached to 5k session.

We honestly had planned just to say hello and go for a dander as we have Time Trail tomorrow night but ended up actually doing the session. 

As the number of very impressively turned out runners cautiously approached the group…I’ve never seen so many high vis jackets all together. There was no missing this squad.

Nervous, uncertain and probably feeling way out of their depth, I’m sure as individuals they didn’t realise everyone else felt the same.

What they hadn’t realised though was that they had already conquered the hardest step, the one out the door. It was essentially the first real night of winter as the wind literally howled and warnings of snow ahead it would have been so much easier to just say nah some other time.

As the session pleasantries where over and warm up began, everyone was in high spirits. I could see on the faces of some that the warm up alone was tough..trust me I have been there and remember thinking after my first “Death by Dermot” warm up that I wasn’t going to be fit to put one foot in front of the other after I finished. So it does get easier!

Nothing beats a visit back to fundamentals and techniques refreshing. It’s even been put in as part of my training plan now..on Mondays funny enough. Drop those shoulders, keep the head up, arms at 90 degrees, you know the drill.

As we set off in pairs Caitriona and I decided our place was firmly at the back…nothing new there. At least this meant that no one felt any pressure to break away from the crowd as we wouldn’t leave a man behind. After all I always think about Dambusters Half and how after half a mile we had watched the speedies fly away off and we settled into our own pace and were very comfortable in our own skin to be there. 13.1 mile later and we both finished a few minutes apart in the toughest half marathon of the series in horrendous conditions. But to get to that stage of believe in your training it takes a lot of falling behind and self reflections to be comfortable with it. So we weren’t for letting anyone begin to comprehend that. Running is inclusive whether you run a 6minute mile or a 16minute mile. It’s still a mile.

As a steady walk run continued up the promenade we were met by a fierce head wind. That alone was a struggle to push through but the group was determined and kept it steady and pushed on. 

A brief lesson in the car park to fix style and technique *reminding myself what old habits I’ve fallen into* and it was time for the return journey.

At a pretty good pace we went back down the promenade and enjoyed a strong tailwind. Bouncing across the bridge and praying the impact didn’t bounce one of us over the edge, we made it back to solid ground, all accounted for. 

Finishing up with 2 mile under their belts, the look of relief, satisfaction and accomplishment could be seen across the faces of all the runners. A nice set of cool down stretches and the session was over.

So week 1 done, a great bunch of people taking the first big steps to endless possibilities. Running has helped me in so many ways both mentally and nd physically and the benefits are numerous. I wish every single person who this week or maybe next, takes that step out the door and starts putting one foot in front of the other, the best of luck with their journey. 

I can’t wait to see how the group fairs over the next 6 weeks, it’ll not be long before they’ll be lapping me at parkrun. Onwards and upwards so they say!

What goes up must come down…eventually

What goes up must come down…eventually

I always wonder how I get myself into things. However on the realisation that Michael actually doesn’t train unless he has an event to work towards, Christmas 2016 seen him getting a one way ticket to his Ultra Running baptism of fire. 

The Last Man Standing Ultra run by local events company Atlas Running, consists of 4.2 mile on the hour, every hour for as many hours as it takes until there is only 1 person left. Sounds simple enough, right?

So cue the Recce day. 5 laps of the course, race conditions. And check out that elevation 🙈🙈🙈

Yip up and down like a loop whilst doing loops. A bipolar course if i ever seen one.

Of course thinking I didn’t want to miss out/flirting with the idea that I might actually do it after my performance at DCM16. I took myself along with the long suffering husband and what is the crew from MAC. 
I had treated this week like I had done my prep for my 20miler, well I could have rested up a bit more as I’m sure my legs where screaming for mercy after being up the Granite Trail aka lunges with a view, twice this week. However when the weather is as mild as it has been, I can’t sit inside.

Granite Trail on Thursday

So Team MAC took to the start line with over 20 other’s including last year’s winner. I had various ideas of strategy on how best to tackle the miles ahead. Other than just getting my ass round it alive, I was sure there was a technique to it.

Team MAC with honoury members Fiona Kenna and Lucy the dog

As we set off I felt very overwhelmed. I was surrounded by the elite of running madness, sorry I mean royalty. Seasoned Ultra Runners, the members of the 100 mile club and me. I’m sure they must have looked at me and wondered was I lost. But I am the personification of slow and steady and that essentially is what we needed to be. In control of pace and our own abilities to make the time frame. 

The recce participants

I was very lucky to be yet again at the back of the pack as I was accompanied by race organiser Adrian. Who was the perfect gentleman and paced me round. Explaining the best strategy for the lap. To be at the road by 11 minutes, the Bridge by 22, the House by 30 and the Caravan Park for 40. And if you want to walk it takes 12minutes to get the start. 

Lap 1 sucking all the information out of Adrian

First lap was bang on 52minutes. But I was already feeling it, a sign that I was nowhere near ready for the few laps ahead. Lap 2 kicked off and Michael decided to pace me through it.
We don’t often run together and there is a valid reason why- he drives me mad. I appreciate whoever runs with me has to have something special about them, especially if they are slowing down to meet my pace. We survived the 2nd lap together and headed off on the 3rd lap. And this is where he started to drive me mad.

In fairness my legs where starting to feel it bad, I was wondering if a 4th lap was even possible never mind a 5th. He encouraged me in his own annoying way to get me through the first 2 mile which where the toughest by far. Reaching the tarmac after the house I actually began to open up and relax. However this was becoming a common theme every lap. 

He left me with a mile to go on the downhill and I knew I’d make the cut off to start another lap. Doing some quick maths I knew this would bring me in around 13 mile. I was happy enough with that but knew I hadnt done any long run training and this was my limit. 

Winterfell Castle… made infamous by Game of Thrones.

Coming in with minutes to spare I had a stern word with myself.  I’d 2 more hours to go until everyone was finished and my legs, although tight, had some life left. So I set off on lap 4 knowing I’d burn out and have to walk missing the cut off. I enforced a new plan to my Ultra Running strategy. I was going to enjoy the unseasonably mild January day and the beautiful surroundings, take out the camera and photograph the memories of the day with a dynamic cool down. And that I did! I came in just over the 4.10 mark as let’s face it, I stopped to talk to a lady and her son out walking their dog, I sang with the birds and towards the end had caught up with the girl in front who happens to be called Janet and we walked the last mile in together. 17 miles completed.
Now that’s what I call a perfect end to a run. Learning about others running stories and obstacles, their future plans and laughing. 

The first of the lap 5 runners arrived in at 36mins and everyone followed shortly afterwards.  

The MAC crew all done themselves proud making the 21 miles looks easy. The recce has recruited maybe 2 more runners from the club as they felt it is a challenge they want to embrace. 

Me on the other hand. Not this year…some year definitely. But for now I’m happy to head up the MAC support crew to ensure there are friendly faces and all hands on deck to get the biggest entry of Murlough runners to an Ultra, through as many laps as possible.  

Myself and Fiona Kenna post run

In true team fashion and of course to satisfy the post run munchies. We stopped by McDonalds and massacred all food put in front to us…you can’t beat it.