Month: February 2017

The Round Up of The Running Coaches Newcastle

The Round Up of The Running Coaches Newcastle

Ok I admit, I genuinely think Dermot just expected me to stop by for a few minutes as an odd example of what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. Ok I did go from not being able to run, to running a marathon within less than a year. To some people inspirational, to others completely mad. However I am sure it was to prove to the group that within the next 6 weeks, they could achieve the 5k distance.

Though although I was meant to be just passing, Caitriona and I stayed for the whole session and stuck at the back where we are always most comfortable and that began 6 weeks of sharing in the experience of getting these terrified but determined runners to 5k. Read about the night it all began, here.

As the weeks went on, everyone began to settle into the routine and week on week they pushed themselves that bit further. Of course Caitriona and I where always there to brighten the occasion. Week 2 seen the addition of Hugh to the coaching line up and I am sure seeing the familiar faces of the now rightly named “craic at the back” was a nice touch to his first session with the group.

Week 3 I was already very aware at this stage that those who had been out doing their “homework” where well capable of kicking my ass already over the distance. I had to keep telling myself that I am all about endurance and not primarily about speed to keep my self esteem in check. But it was great to see new runner learning the ropes and even at that by the half way mark in the sessions they were completing the distance with minor breaks in between. An achievement to be proud of.

However the full scale badassery of the group came in full force in Week 4. It was an absolutely minging evening that even the most die hard would have said you’d be mad to go out in it. However dedication prevailed and one by one each runner tentatively got out of their cars and took on the best that the wind and the rain could offer. An epic session in my opinion as nothing beats knowing you are dedicated to something and focussed on the aim, with nothing stopping you, even the Weather Gods.

Week 5 didn’t get any drier, actually the ducks didn’t even come out for it however the Newcastle hardcore posse made it to Donard Car Park and off we set. Not caring that we were wet, not caring about the on lookers and running up Newcastle main street with our arms in the air literally like “we just didn’t care.” All sense was out the window and where a few weeks prior everyone was very self conscious – no one cared anymore. We were running in the pouring rain and loving life.

Dermot went on holiday and left the group in charge of Hugh and his 2 self proclaimed beautiful assistants. So The Hugh take over was underway and with the final night challenge only a week away, the group proved that they had heart, determination and  had worked hard to get to the level they where achieving. The next week would be a breeze.

The final night saw the group cruise down the promenade, bounce over and back across the bridge and then curse the sight of the Barbician as they prayed for the turning point. Absolutely nailing their 5k without stopping and earning their shiny medals. The group who on January 9th never ever imagined they would be able to run a full 5k, non stop proved to themselves that with the right work and belief they could achieve that.

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What even made me prouder was the fact the majority of the group are coming back next week to the “Progressive Group” with the desire to continue to improve. They have the belief in their abilities, they want to keep going. This just proves how successful the sessions have been and the fun that they had learning to run.

The thing about running is that the sky is the limit. New skills, improved form and plenty of practice can lead to more than just running. I hope that each runner in the group is sitting at home very proud of what they have achieved. I also hope they continue with that thirst to improve and come along to progressive group. Running is more than one foot in front of the other, its time to yourself, its good exercise but most of all it is great fun and I think the group sees that now.

Well done everyone! It has been a pleasure being a part of your journey and I’m allowed to come back next week to do it all again with the new beginners. Can’t wait!

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Last One Standing – the Epic race report

Last One Standing – the Epic race report

It’s not very often that I am rendered speechless. Its either as a result of losing my voice by over talking or being so moved by something that there are no words to describe. This weekend it was the latter than took my voice away.

The Last One Standing Ultra took place at Castleward this weekend and after DCM, I had joked with Michael about him giving it a bash. It was the random ramblings of one Kieran Young who put the idea in my head. Of course he was trying to convince me to do it whilst I was still feeling invincible after Dublin as I could spend 6 hours on my feet and that’s good training, I had endurance. Well sadly for him I also have some sense left after 2 kids and instead pitched the idea to Michael, who in order to keep training, needs something to train for, so hello Christmas present to Hubby.

As you all know I did brave the Recce day just to test myself and although I made a good stab at 4 laps with zero training I just don’t think I was ready to take it on myself and entered the 8.4 mile trail race which was 2 laps of the route. So I self nominated myself as head of the support crew as I knew doing this alone without the encouragement and the hands on deck would be a nightmare. So who else to call on than my trusted running buddies and the others from the club to swing by as and when they could on the day.

runners that run together- support together. The 3 amigos out in full gear to keep everyone right!

It was like a military operation in my house the morning of the race. I had to be up and away first and Caitriona had kindly offered to collect Michael a little later so he wasn’t hanging about. I had pre packed for everything the day before ensured all odd and random bits where included in the plastic box to get us through the day, from plasters and socks to sleeping bag and hot water bottles. As I arrived at Castleward I spotted Kieran already set up and ready to take the world on. I honestly hadn’t expected any of MAC to be there before my race and we were soon joined by Brenda who came along to make sure I got off in one piece.

Home for the day- the barn

I was the only one from the club who had opted for what was a brutal and challenging 2 lap route of 8.4 mile, a patch on what some runners would achieve later that day. Knowing the route, I knew what lay ahead but I was just out the pass the time and get a medal for actually finishing. I was in great spirits as I took on the first lap, I treated it the same way I had done the recce and walked the hills and ran the flats, I was on target for a solid first lap and as I neared the line hoping to make it without being lapped, didn’t Don Travers have to spoil my lap and pip me to the finish before I completed the first lap, like park run all over again. I do apologise for the choice words he received as he flew over the line but at this stage many of the MAC had arrived and where there to cheer me through to the start of the 2nd lap.

Flying feet at the end of the second lap! wohoo!

Needless to say I had an epiphany at around 5 mile, I had spent so much time organising Michaels stuff for the Ultra that I had forgot about my own race. I was out on course without water, gels, nothing! So as I hit 6 mile into the field, I had a different sort of fuel keeping me going and it was the sight of the full MAC crew at the bridge cheering me on. I swear as I came up the field, I held back a lot of tears. It was the most moving sight as I was pretty much on my own either side and there they were cheering for me. So thanks guys for that, means a lot.

The bridge where MAC came to cheer little old me on at mile 6

Taking on the hill to the house was, as always, not the best part of the race but as I headed for home, I could hear in the distance 6.5 minutes to the Ultra starts. I had forgot that my race had started late so pushed on to make it to the finish so I could see them all at the start. With a few minutes to spare I was able to wish everyone good luck and see them on their way as they headed off for many, many miles.

Delighted to have a mornings run done and ready to take over duties as support crew fuelled by Avonmore no less

So flashbacks of Causeway Coast came flooding back as I got the baby wipes out and tried to make myself respectable after my run, hiding behind some historic trailer doing a full clothes change as Caitriona, Branda and Aine chatted away. Wrapped up, fresh and ready for the long day ahead.

Everyone made the first lap home safely, with a list drawn up prior to the race it was easy to have organised in advance the how everyone liked their tea and coffee and have everything sitting so that all they had to do was run, rest repeat. As hunger kicked in with myself, I had my first of many runs in with the man in the chip van over the course of the day.

Between Caitriona, Brenda and myself we fell into a pretty smooth routine each lap. On the hour, see everyone off, go the toilet and tidy round the barn. Be at the bridge for 15mins past the hour, spend the next 20 minutes, cheering everyone on. Back to base and check drinks and have food ordered and ready. From 45 minutes past the hour everyone began to come in for their lap finishing and everything from helping to get fresh tops on and socks to getting last minute cravings. Even tending to those around us who became honoury members for the day, Richard with Omagh Harriers to everyones favourite Jimmy Mac loving the Murlough hands on approach.

Michael cosy in his wee group on lap 3

As the laps went on into the 3rd, the wait at the bridge got a little longer as people began to realise that their final lap was nearly upon them. Cheering on those who I normally run with at my end of the field was pure gold. Jennifer, Alan, Nora and Janet all held a special place in our cheering as although my runners had to learn to slow down, for my pace, I’d just have to keep on going and going and going at my normal pace so I am sure they were feeling it.

Alan taking on the muddiness of the path

Lap 3 saw the first DNF. However it wasn’t to be a MAC, as the clocked ticked down I spotted Alan making his way across the line and seeing he had moments to start the next lap pretty much got threw over the line to start the 4th lap. I knew he was in pain but even if he walked, it was miles in the legs and I knew if it was me, I’d want someone to get me across that line. Alan does claim that he was very scared of me on the 3rd lap and the only way he could run away from me was by going over the line again. Well at least he knows now not the flirt with the cut of time again.

A delighted Jennifer finished and showing off her DNF medal

Alan and Jennifer both missed the cut off finishing their race on just short of 17 miles and didn’t start the 5th lap. Both proud and rightly so with precious miles in the legs for their respective marathons. With their final race in the Run Forest Run series looming next week, this cross club friendship continues to keep the two of them striving for better times all whilst enjoying the miles and gaining some fancy bling, even if it is a medal for not finishing a race.
The next lap saw Janet, my partner in crime at the Recce reach her goal of 5 laps. There was something powerful about being able to stand on the bridge and cheer every runner on at the lap half way point. But the elation in her face when she knew she had made her aim and completed the 21 miles was fantastic and a huge hug afterwards was priceless. Well done girl!

An upbeat and strong Brendan wading on
And this is the point where me and the grumpy chip van man clashed. Having served soup from midday, runners where beginning, 6 hours in, to want some solid warm food in them. It was dinner time after all. However the catering van was not prepared for this and even when a runner asked for solid food, he said he’d soup and I knew something needed to happen by the next lap, so being Siobhan I went and spoke to Adrian nicely and bacon and egg baps where promised the next lap. Well arriving at the van at 6.35 ready to order for the runners from Murlough coming in, he was more concerned about his paying customers than the runner who had the short window of opportunity to eat and nothing prepared- which I am sure was what he was paid to be there for. A few sharp choice words and although I was cater for he was told to pull his finger out and be ready for over 100 runners about to cross the line within the next 10 minutes. After that I couldn’t even face looking at him again and I hope to God that he isn’t there next year and some one who can do their job is there putting the runners first instead of being more concerned about lining their own pockets. *rant over*

Its head torch time

As many approached their longest milage to date with marathon distance soon to be reached in the middle of the 7th lap, you began to see some runners search for that little something extra. As head lamps where now mandatory as day light faded, the course became like a new route, totally unrecognisable to the eye. As promised we walked the gutters of the field that had taken a bashing from hundreds of pairs of feet over the previous 8 hours and held with pride the Murlough AC banner just past the Marathon distance point to welcome the runners into the Ultra Marathon bracket.

Mr music man himself
And as promised by Michael Mc Kenna the tunes where pumping and we heard him before we seen him. With a quick rave in the middle of a field surrounded by I’m sure bewildered runners, we celebrated the entry into uncharted territory and headed to embrace Ultra running.

Coming back through the field we waded through the muck and although a lot more compacted to when I ran it earlier in the day it was sort of sticky and pulling the backs of your legs,  thought to myself that it wouldn’t have been to pleasant doing that.

We returned to the barn and ready for prep *insert bacon bap rant with grumpy chip van man* As team MAC returned to their camp seats, I heard the sensible words of the music man himself and was glad he made a tough call. Actually in fairness, he should not have toed the line anyway and my heart broke as out of everyone he had trained hard and knew what he wanted. Although breaking the marathon barrier and going beyond is extraordinary, I knew not too deep down he wanted more and at full health, very capable of double what he done. I can’t wait to see him blow the race out of the water next year. However well done Kenny. Your presence was missed the next lap as the ladies in the field where sad to see the “music man” had bowed out.

Going well through the early laps, Eddie gives the thumbs up
The next lap started in pitch black, completing this lap would bring everyone beyond the 50k mark. I knew for many of the field that this was a personal target. A huge distance by any stretch of the imagination and I knew Michael had initially set this lap as his aim. It was a long lap for us waiting on, even though runners continued to come in from the 38 minute mark. The smell of the barn was become toxic with an array of deep heat, cool gels and the likes to keep legs from cramping and seizing. Fresh changes of socks and clothes where aplenty also. I waited with tailwind and an orange. MAC began to come across the line from the 48 minute mark and no sign of a steady Michael in at 51. I hoped to God he hadn’t called it a day but at 55 minutes he crossed the line.

Following him into the barn he gave an open invitation to everyone else declaring, this is his final lap and welcomes anyone willing to walk. Considering the previous lap near killed me with nerves and I knew he had already accepted that he had done what he wanted I jumped at the chance to see what 9 laps of running had done to the terrain. Michael had changed from his trails to his road trainers on lap 8 so I was intrigued. Of course I went for the trails and grabbed a handful of jellies for the 4.2 trip. So on the hour, we crossed the line with all the other runners and off we set at a nice walking a pace.

It was such a fantastic evening with stars lighting up the sky and views across Strangford Lough, such a difference to day time but equally as calm and still. I rabbled on about my run and getting lapped by Don…again, people getting lost, forgetting my water and my random comments about the way the track had changed since 10am that morning. I got to also enjoy the stories from the pack with everyone elses tactics and how although he called it a day on this lap how he knew he could have went on for another- which I knew fine rightly, he just has other priorities this year and maybe in a few years he’ll come back and make the race his priority.

Strangford Lough on lap 9

It was a perfect cool down, he’d brought his club jacket so was able to bring the body temperature down slowly and it was more of a farewell to each painful part of the route, the hill to Winterfell, the field, the bridge, that hill to the house, the lonely tarmac road and the sliding down the back hill to the caravan park. On reaching that point children were out and said “are you runners, its 9 oclock you aren’t going to make it” apparently they had been there calling out “come on lightbulb” to the runners as they passed in the dark.

Ormeau Runners little fairy Nora eating up the miles

Crossing the line in 1.12 brought his Garmin to over 40 miles with a pleased and proud Michael attached. Also this lap saw Nora, the wee legend complete her last lap also. Heading out to make the Ultra Distance, she took more steps than anyone in the field, took even more abuse and shouting from us on the bridge than anyone else and had the best smile of anyone out there running. She did make the cut to go for lap 10 but knew she had smashed her expectations and made me wonder, next year, that could be me. I said could…not would! just for the record.

There was many a costume change throughout the day- someone should buy this man a hat

The next lap cut off came and went with Eddie, Colin and Kieran making the cut. Brendan and the only MAC woman in the field, Judith finished the lap together with cheers from all the MAC crew who had travelled to Castleward in the evening time. With in excess of 42 miles completed the two of them beamed from ear to ear and I was so proud of them both. The club bond shone throughout that lap. I had watched both of them with awe. Brendan had come a long way in the last 6 weeks since the recce day where he turned up for just 2 laps and there was Judith, the little person that she is yet strong as an ox battling through each lap giving her all, just exemplary and showing that an Ultra is not just for men.

The strongest lady I know, Judith powering through yet another lap

Lap 11 saw Eddie leave the madness. A few laps earlier he had toyed with the next lap being his last, however each lap he just kept going and pushing himself to his limits. He dug deep and fresh socks seemed to give him magic powers to go, yet again. Grit, dertermination and by self admission, pure stubbornness got him to over 45 mile and retired a happy man from the race.

Judith, Eddie and Kenny, out in the midnight hours

A man on a mission, Kieran Young was out to break the 50mile barrier. After earning the Ultra title last year as the ONLY MAC to take to the start line last year, I am sure he felt more at home surrounded by some fellow loopers who he talked into doing this along with the randomers he picked up last year. Taped from the ankle up beyond his knee, fuelled with McDonalds Fillet o Fish (yes someone actually buys those) he preserved and obviously cut from the same branch as Eddie, his stubbornness got him past the 50miles and Kieran finished the race a content and proud man.

Hopefully Kieran is still feeling this elated now after 12 hours of running.
Yet still looking fresh faced after 12 laps and beyond, Colin Jess continued to put in staggering lap times through the wee hours. The night time crew had come in to support him and honoury member Jimmy Mac who between them both kept each other going during and between laps. As the field began to whittle down a bit more, Colin continued to keep it steady and do what he needed to do and more each lap. As the sun rose over Strangford Lough the MAC Duracell Bunny kept on running. I am sure it was a welcomed sunrise and just after 8am Colin crossed the line completing in excess of 84 miles. To miss the cut off by a small margin.

No bother to this man! cool as can be- whats another lap!

However he still looked as if he had only done one lap but I am sure Artie had something to say about his legs not being so fresh when Colin lay up for a good rub down followed by a feed that came on a plate and he got to eat at a table. The whole club had so many words of support and congratulations and rightly so. From lap 6 Colin was in new mileage territory and to keep on going shows just exactly the calibre of runner and indeed person that he is. I am in awe at the runners out in the field the last 2 days.
Even with Colin over and out, Jimmy Mac continued on and earned himself his 100 mile medal and after 24 hours took himself and his two medals him. I have never been in the presence of such inspiration and determination all coated in pure mentalness.

Jimmy Mac- 100 mile club

As I write this there are still people out there running on little sleep, going beyond the 130mile mark. Crazy some would say, however now I’ve watched that, I would say absolutely completely crazy but such mentally strong, physically strong and so sure of their capabilities and belief in themselves, I cant even find the words to explain the level of respect that I have for endurance runners. Either that or they just don’t like their families and just keep running to avoid going home, or want to phone work in the morning to say “hey I’m still running that race I started on Saturday I’ll not be in until after lunch”

My blog has seemed to go on forever, just like the race but I never knew when I joined MAC that I was opening a door to a new life. This time last year I was following the Last One Standing online, as I heard it mentioned at the Gym that it was happening. I thought anyone would be a fruit cake to consider such madness and a year later I was there supporting not only my husband but friends from the club and beyond. People who I’ve met at races, people who I have ran miles with, people who I just met that day who I befriended (not the grumpy chip van man) supporting them to push themselves to new limits, cheer them through tough miles, hug them when they where struggling, hold them up when they finished and share the experience with them. I am so proud of them all and I cry writing this as although I feel like I have ran the Ultra, I know how much it meant to them and to reach those limits. Which they never thought ever possible.

The guys who left their sanity at home and need to find something different to do on their Saturdays off

Will I ever do an Ultra, I don’t know. I’ve my eyes firmly on Derry and Dublin and I know when it gets tough I will remember the grit, the determination and the stubbornness that the runners I encountered at Castleward showed at Last One Standing and know- I can and I will do this.
 

The Last MAC Standing..take a bow Colin 

 

 

 

 

The Hugh take over 

The Hugh take over 

A few weeks back panic struck the group when Dermot announced he was going on holiday. This shocked me on 2 levels…1 – he was taking time off (about bloody time) and 2 – Mondays session would end up being missed. Not on my watch.

So breaking rank (do I even have one) I suggested that I’d be there at 7pm on the Monday in Dermots absence if anyone fancied a wee jont to keep their now embedded night out..I mean training session. I do think fear set in and Hugh stepped up to the mark and said he’d be there too. So the panic was averted and no one missed their Monday session and it was in the capable hands of Hugh and his side kicks (me and caitriona).

However the thought of a wee jont out tonight wasn’t one I embraced.  With yesterday’s antics at Dune Half and still not feeling too hot on I recalled laughing at Dermot trying to stretch after a week of high milage…he would have loved to have seen me trying to move tonight. What goes around come’s around. 

However since it was initially my idea to have a session in the first place I’d to man up with my sore legs and dodgy tummy. But without fail and a little encouragement, Caitriona hauled her ass out too after the race of her life yesterday to join in the ‘recovery run’ and support her lesser able running buddy.

Hugh knew we were both in bits and had a good laugh at our expense but was adamant that we were going to do 3 ‘easy’ miles. Thing is 3 miles is never easy!! And especially the day after a race. Though let’s face it this session wasn’t about us…it was about the ‘beginners’ using that term lightly now.

So after a great warm up where high knees was just too much effort for me, we set off Hugh leading and Caitriona and I holding the back as normal. 

I wasn’t sure if it was just tired legs but after half a mile I was dying. Luckily it wasn’t just us and after catching Hugh’s attention we dropped the pace back a tiny bit and it made all the difference. Turning for the return leg home. The group stayed well together and it became clear who the faster runners where and who had been keeping up the mid week training in the group. I was having to keep remind them to take it back a step to keep the group together. 

Due to traffic on the road I crossed with the first group who had a bit more left in them so we picked the pace up for the final 300m. Was nice to stretch out and enjoy a strong finish.  Followed by the second set to cross the road with Hugh and then the third set with Caitriona. Clocking 5 km or 3.13 mile if you want to pedantic.

Everyone made it through the run in one piece and are more than ready for next week’s final session. Plus it was also nice to run again on a Monday in favourable weather.

It’s amazing to see how far they’ve all come and I’ve come to terms with the fact most of them are quicker than me. Though I’ll be sad to see the sessions end but that means a new group of beginners and hopefully seeing this group join the progressive group to further develop their progress from being able to beat me to absolutely annilating me. 🙈

 *note I did not get a hug this week however Hugh reluctantly waved at me during the cool down stretch ..I’ll take that*

I’m not “Dune” yet

A wise man once told me, you can prepare all you want for a race and your training can be perfect however you have no idea what will happen on the day so just run the best you can. Running a race is simply putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping you don’t drop or crack any of them. Sometimes you make it to the end of the race and sometimes not, however there is always another race on another day.

Dune Half Marathon was one of those races for me, where I knew I was fit for it, though all it took was the onset of a wishy washy stomach at 7 mile for me to falter and face 6 mile of trying not the throw up. However on the up side I experienced serious camaraderie and was able to accompany a fellow friend and club mate through the final miles of her first half marathon.

No joke but the air would have cut you in two, Slieve Donard had its little snow cap on and there we were getting into the car to take on the 13.1 mile between Newry and Dundalk. Classed as a Cross Boarder experience, where actually “no passport required yet” was the tag line, it was sure to be an experience. I wasn’t going out for time, nor did I really care, as long as I came in under the 3 hours I was going to be happy. I don’t train on road very often however my trainers do love not being soaked and mucked to the eye balls after a race.

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The T-shirt was epic, just like the race

I honestly spend more time trying to figure out what to wear for a race than I do to go out. Weather is always a big factor when it comes to a training run however at a race there usually isn’t the opportunity to strip off etc, so I braved the very cold temperatures in my capris, short sleeved top and my MAC vest for the cross boarder trip. It turned out there was a vast collection of choice of clothes that the runners opted for on the day, from the hardcore, I’m not afraid of the cold, vest and short shorts, to the more sensible, Layer up and hope for the best runners.

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We feel no cold, the shorter the shorts the better- Joe and Tony showing some leg

Setting off within a field of 800, Brenda, Caitriona and myself, flanked by the usual suspects of the naughty club including Eileen, Jennifer and Peter, set off from Newry quayside shortly after 10am. The first mile was a long drag, more so that fact that we knew at the end of it we faced a long steep climb of roughly 460 feet, to the dual carriageway. As you know I don’t mind a hill or two but this was one of little hope at the end of it, it just kept going. A few seconds relief in between though and whenever you have Eileen and Marion behind you “checking out your ass” willing you up the hill, there nothing like a wee wiggle to make you smile and remind you why you do this to yourself as a smile plasters itself across your face at the hardest part of the race.

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Been chased up the hill by Eileen and Marion as we pretend that we really love this hill

On climbing the hill, Brenda went out in front and after last weeks training run on tried legs I could have swore that she was out to leave me and Caitriona behind to eat her dust. However it wasn’t long before Caitriona made use of the extra leg extension and powered her way up the hill. As we enter onto the old road, the 3 of us had separated and where running alone.

I don’t mind running alone and lets face it, I wasn’t alone for long as I found 2 cracking girls from Derry to pass the next few miles with as I watched Caitriona put in some lonely miles and when I looked behind I could still see Brenda and knew she was still with us and doing well. As we made our way through miles 3 and 4, with the 2 best coordinated runners of the day, we were greeted by snow flurries and I wondered to myself why I had opted for short sleeves.

At mile 5 I hadn’t held back since leaving Newry, pace felt strong and I was settling into the miles nicely. It had been a long time since I was turning out 11 minute miles and for once I didn’t feel like I was going to die. Reaching the Carrickdale and the half way point I was in good form, mentally and physically clocking a 10k time to be proud of based on current form. As I took on the hill at Jonesborough I felt a little queezy and overlooked it as I was distracted by fellow MAC Norah out cheering us on.

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But I wasn’t distracted for too long. I had made up some distance on the hill between Caitriona and myself, however the queeziness got worse and the feeling like your tummy is a washing machine was embedded in my core. I had to slow down to nearly a walk and breathe through each bout of potential vomit. It wasn’t long before Brenda had caught up with me and I think if she hadn’t have done so, my race could have been over shortly after.

 

Through the next few mile we ran and chatted about all things running, the roads we were on, the drivers who tried to run us over and how I can run and direct traffic all in the one movement. It made such a difference to what could have been a potential DNF situation which would probably haunt me forever. As we tackled the section of hills after it wasn’t long that we were looking at the last 3 miles.

Looking down at my watch I wondered if Michael had broken his aim of a sub 2 hour half. I wondered had he ran with Brendan again and the bromance still lived on.  I also thought about how this time next week, I’d be finished my 8.4 mile trail race at Castleward and beginning duty at the Ultra race. I also knew that I’d definitely make the 3 hour cut off even if I had to walk.

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Spotted together on camera, Brendan and Michael chasing down Davey the 1.55 pacer

Brenda and I smiled our way through the final 3 mile as we watched Caitriona up ahead dig deep to 1…finally beat me and 2…smash her PB. We willed her on and cheered for her, both exceptionally excited and proud of her. The last 2 miles where tough but together we made it not as painful. We did decide in advance that we would cross the line together as without each other the race could have been a different story.

I didn’t realise that Dundalk was such a big place as the finish line was, what seemed, miles away. The mile markers along the course where spot on and as the watch buzzed for 13 mile the end was in sight and we cruised to the finish, together hand in hand. Brenda has just officially became a half marathoner and I was super proud of her as she came in bang on target at 2.45.

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The 10.5 mile point where the end was near but not near enough

Crossing the line to a host of familiar faces and hugs from many including Tony, Bootsy and Patricia Brown was a perfect end to the race. I looked around searching for Caitriona and Michael. I spotted them and ran to mob Caitriona. I honestly could feel myself welling up after the emotions I was feeling after making it to the finish in one piece and seeing Brenda so happy, I knew Caitriona had PB’d on such a tough course and her smile said it all. I turned to Michael hoping for more good news. I looked at him and tentatively asked…well? He said nothing and took out his phone to show me his Strava stats and there is was. Not only did he break the 2 hour mark, he smashed it with a 1.52. Who’d have thought! I was just so overwhelmed with excitement as I stood there. The fact my race didn’t go to plan didn’t matter, what mattered was Michael pulled out a spectacular run and went beyond his own expectations, Brenda nailed her first half and Caitriona had exceeded her own expectations and ran the race of her life.

I have to admit I was annoyed at myself and beat myself up briefly, though I have learned that the past can not be changed and I need to look forward and take the positives from the day. I didn’t freeze to death, I still finished, the t-shirt and medal is awesome and it wasn’t even my slowest half either… Lisburn still is! So as I reflect on the race I have much to celebrate. I put in some strong miles even during the later part of the race when I was under the weather and I have said it once and I’ll say it again, I am lucky to be apart of such a great club where I have made some fantastic friends and running has brought even more amazing people into my life from right across the country and I got to spend my Sunday with them.

Better luck next race and I can always give it another blast next year. Lets be having you Dune 2018- hopefully a passport isn’t required then!

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Some of team MAC as we smile through the fear of the unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initiation into learning to coach

Initiation into learning to coach

The impending doom of Marathon Training officially beginning this weekend is nearly upon me.

And as with my training for Dublin, I plan to kick it off with a race. Although I’ve happily enough kept up the big miles this year after 17 at Castleward and 10 and 13 in training during January, the fear of an actual race and not just a training run fills me with dread.

So in the spirit of keeping myself moving but not killing myself I finally got a chance to swing by Selenas own running group, Jog Off, here on my doorstep in Castlewellan. So whilst inflicting pain on the club on Tuesdays, she spends a few nights a week spreading the running love and getting people out and about.

In fairness I’ve been meaning to get up and be my usual disruptive self but between the randomness of going back to work and various other running related adventures and the obviously too lazy reason, tonight was the first time I could make it.

Asking Selena last night if I could swing by for a few mile she was strangely delighted to hear my vague eagerness and was straight in to being Coach Selena by offering me the chance to do the warm up. 

With the LIRF course this month to be completed I needed a confidence boost with adults…testing a 15 minute warm up with 25 x 6 and 7 year old during a 30 minute PE lesson to just play dodge ball is just becoming mean and excessive now. So I jumped at the chance in the hope I didn’t have to do the cool down as I still don’t know what muscle does what. 

So shortly before 6.30 Selena arrived at the door and boy was it cold. However one by one everyone arrived and it was time to be in the deep end. 

Point 1…in Castlewellan someone is bound to know you …running groups are no exception. Point 2…I made the rookie mistake of not demonstrating before doing and Point 3…all that aside, it was a pretty damn good warm up. ✔

Plan tonight was 2 x 1 mile runs. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never ran a mile around the town so was quite looking forward to it. I suppose the cracker doesn’t count! 

Lovely wee route which I could be tempted to run again and tried my best to be positive and motivating which actually is just me being me and having the Craic. After we regrouped and started again, Selena asked for me to run with the group and she ran at the back. It was lovely to chat and talk to everyone. Trying to keep their minds of their breathing and whatever pain they where feeling, if any. 

I guess my theory that if you are talking it goes by quicker is not only invaluable to passing the time but it’s a great distraction when starting out. Probably why more people new to running succeed when in a group or running with friends. 

OK my craic was words of wisdom and stories of races I have run and people I’ve met but still I hope somewhere along the line it helped pass the time.

2 mile completed and the group done fab. However that was not the end of it…

Whilst making our way to the next part of the session I ran with a girl called Eimear she tentatively asked me…was I running the lake on Sunday. Well as I said in an earlier post, 5 laps of the lake was Sundays adventure. Apparently we had lapped her twice on Sunday. In my best forrest grump talk ‘I was runnnn- ing’ 

We were to finish the session on the top part of Mill Hill. I knew this would involve the final hill and felt that this was punishment for missing out on the Mill Hill winterval session on Tuesday. But as you all know, I love a wee sprint regardless of the distance I’ve ran. So upped my gear with focus on form and dug deep.

After 2 x 20 second sprints, I knew that the third was going to be the hill. However I was to be left to last after setting everyone else out and Selena was joining me for the final push up the hill.

Forever the optimist and giver of tough love when it comes to me, we fought to the top of the hill with various abuse intermixed with encouragement. I swear my arms couldn’t drive anymore. However a not to shabby sprint and was I glad it was over. 

As we commenced cool down Selena did ask me to help with it and although I knew what to do with my body to stretch I keep getting my muscles mixed up. Note to self.  Learn them! 

A great session and a fab wee group. It even came with feedback from Selena after. All with the best intentions to get me to believe in myself more and I’m apparently under estimating my running abilities.

I’m sure the next 16 weeks to Derry Marathon will be the usual rollercoster of of emotions, break downs, triumphs and medal collecting.  However supporting whoever I am running with will always be the foundation of every run I do, whether I am mid marathon or lucky enough to help out at a running group or in the club.

But for now…I’ve a new 1 mile loop in Castlewellan to practice on. Wait who am I kidding…I can’t cheat on the lake! 


  

Wet, wetter and wettest 

Wet, wetter and wettest 

As I sat gazing out the window of the classroom at the rain flying sideways across the playground, the mobile rattled and I was sure my daydream would soon morph into a reality that I was going to wake up in Kansas.

The prospect of running in that weather a few hours later wasn’t the most appealing thought especially as I envisaged the waves flying up over the promenade  and soaking us right through.

As I waited for what I thought would be the invitable message to say this week’s session was called off, I recalled some of the most epic runs of the past year. What did they all have in common…it bucketed out of the heavens.

So when I was basically told to pull my big girl pants up and get out there (paraphrasing obviously) I was really looking forward to a bashing in the wind and rain. 

Again the car park was awash with runners tentatively hoping Dermot would call the session off. I’m sure some just turned up to be seen to be making an effort to come. Though their plan was soon to be scuppered. We were going running.
As the wind cut across the shore and took the rain with it, in twos we tried to keep optimistic as afterall you can only get wet once, step by step up the main street. Seemingly what was to be a recovery run for me after yesterday’s 13 mile was, by half a mile in, not seeming like the brightest idea. 

Pushing on everyone kept going and as we got to the mile mark to turn, it put Caitriona and myself at the front. This always carries it’s own challenges on a normal day but as we hit the promenade we were the first pillar of restistance to a God awful headwind which was accompanied by cold, soaking wet rain.  

And with that I had this overwhelming feeling of relaxation come over me. Here I was with 17 other wing nuts,  running in weather fit for Noah and his Ark. Getting a full scale blasting from the wind and rain and I was loving it. My legs were beginning to feel good after a shakey start and although rain drops where plentiful running down my face, I felt so happy. 

In all honesty I didn’t want the run to end. 

As per weatherman Mathers predictions, as we reached the end, the rain clouds cleared and a still night set upon us. OK an hour later than hoped or prayed for but what everyone had achieved was beyond any type of committment required of any runner. 

They have definitely surpassed the title of “crazy runner” but this group is going places. There is nothing that will put them off getting out there. A great attribute to have where within an hour in Ireland you can experience all seasons. 

As for me, I’m feeling refreshed and content. Also surprised that I’ve ran the day after a long run, not like me. Onwards and upwards. 

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

Brenda hits the first big milestone on the road to London

I have been hoping to get out with Brenda on her training runs the past few weeks but one thing or another hindered the occasion. So as the weekend drew closer and talk of the long run began, it was looking likely that all 3 of us where going to make the run. 

Caitriona and myself had joined the Ultra training contingent on Friday evening in the pouring rain at Tollymore for 5.5 miles at easy pace where we ran the flats and walk the hills a per the required pace for Last One Standing. 
As rain came from every angle we were soon aware that our training run was turning into a wildlife expedition as either side of us where deer grazing and wondering I’m a sure who these buck eejits with head lamps where annoying them on a Friday evening.

A particularly hilly route with some shocking climbs lay ahead but what goes up must come down and there was a very welcome downhill around mile 4 to stretch it out.

On Saturday morning Brenda, who had taken a hitus from running this week laced up the trainers for the Antrim Gardens 10k. She put in a strong performance, out doing every time she has clocked since Christmas. 
So as Sunday came the 3 of us met and headed for the only place I felt Brenda needed to put the miles in- the lake. 

The foundation of all long runs and complete and utter mental torture to the best of runners.  With intentions to do 12 the girls where warned that if we made the 12 I would be pushing onto 13.1 regardless. So that would equate to 5 laps of the the glorious 2.4 mile route and a wee bit more. 

The weather was perfect. Although cold at 1 degree and very crisp, the sun shone down and the air was still, making it perfect conditions to just keep running. 

It is a daunting prospect of 5 laps of anything be that a football pitch or the lake though what I have found is that it is always a lot better and easier when you have someone with you. And today we had plenty of laughs and giggles as we watched the time tick by.

The first 6 miles flew in and between us we didn’t have the usual 3 miles of procrastination and Drill Sargent Caitriona tried to push us on for steady 30minute laps. However as she took off up the back hill she seemed to be graced with the presence of what we can assume was a single, hot male. 

As we watched her head turn to have a better look and speed up to try and keep up briefly did make the laps enjoyable. So if you where one of those fellas in shorts at the lake today and are available please do let me know so I can pass you onto Caitriona.

Brenda had to endure mini interviews the whole way round as we assessed her experience of Lake laps and how she was feeling as the miles built up. 

As we hit the 10 mile mark, Brenda entered into unchartered territory. Not only that but she was running on legs that put in a strong 6 miles the day before. I knew this last lap would involve her having to dig really deep and find everything she had to get through the last few miles.  Although pace dropped slightly she was always in good spirits and not willing or wanting to openingly stop.

The last mile was soon upon us and as always I found a bit left in the legs. Having been told I’m a terrible leader as I pace it too fast, I went out in front to drag them over the last mile. I heard Michaels words fall out of my mouth “the quicker you go the sooner you finish” and glancing at my watch I knew a nice wee cosy sub 3 hour half was achievable. As we turned to finish the last half mile I’d miscalculated the distance and finished on a hill. 

But the thought of the end is near was driving me up it and that last 0.1 mile seen the clock stop with 2 minutes to spare. The last mile was my fastest mile the whole run.

Turning to see the girls behind was a joy. Not only had Brenda ran so well to push through the boundaries, Caitriona had put in a strong run, the best I’ve seen her run in a long time. Which just made me so proud of what we had all achieved as a team. 

So next week sees the first half marathon since August. I fear what lies ahead. I don’t think I’ve got any faster but I am very aware that I can nail the miles. Dune half will be a return to racing and at a distance I enjoy doing. 

Sadly I’d no medal for Brenda today to mark her achievement but I have no doubt that she will earn that medal next week and continue on her road to London stronger and finish the race with the thought “I’ve to do that twice to get to the finish in April.”