Category: Annaghmore Running Festival

DCM17 the tale of the 34minute PB

DCM17 the tale of the 34minute PB

Christmas Day 2016: 

M: Siobhan what have you bought now? -as he does his daily check up on online banking.

S: Happy Christmas I entered you into Last One Standing Ultra and since you seemed to ‘forget’ to get me something this year we’re both signed up to DCM17 too.

Roll on a lot more miles.

If you had said to me just over 2 months ago that I’d be sitting after DCM with a 34 minute marathon PB which included within it a clean sweep of distance PBs from 15k and the illusive sub 5.30. I’d have told ya to wise up.

But hey no need to wise up as that is the reality I have today. My heart has been set on DCM17 since I crossed the finish line last year. I’ve completed Derry marathon, Knockagh Ultra and since June have gained significant 5k/10k/half PBs. How? 

The dcm17 stats

I wanted to be a better runner and the only way to do that is… run! And I ran a hell of alot. Was it all personal motivation? Definitely not! There were days I cursed the schedule, where I didn’t want to run, when I just had enough. But I had made a promise. I promised to try my best and in return Dermot promised he’d get me in the right place for an assault on DCM by setting up my training schedule weekly.

The one thing which always sat with me through the whole training phase was never once did it say on the schedule the exact pace I should be running. I fell in love with this concept. This was me taking ownership of what I wanted and worked to my goal. Of course Dermot knew I wanted the sub 5.30 and we both knew that was 12.30 min/miles the whole way. But it was me who set that target and planned my sessions to reflect on that instead of him dictating exactly what I should be doing. Many a time my anger and upset was because I missed that target because of something or other but also elation on days when I was able to nail it.

Last year it was my first marathon. So expectations where low and the aim was to start and finish. I had trained in some shape or form but knew I’d be luckily to make 6hours. Now don’t get me wrong I’d the best craic round Dublin and crossed the line in 6.02. Now as much as I’d achieved my goal, that 2 minutes killed me. I knew if I’d not stopped to hug everyone and take pictures I’d have got that sub 6. I just got caught up in the moment and the whole event that I didn’t care during the race. 

However my running has come on leaps and bounds since June when I blew up at Derry marathon and I began to believe I was capable of better. I began to train harder and on completing Knockagh I knew 26.2 mile was wee buns in comparison. It was just a question of how to get there quicker…this is where shit got real. Enter the training schedule. My times improved, my running form improved and my ability to run without stopping was clearly becoming second nature over any distance.

My confidence grew and after Annaghmore I knew I was within reach of the sub 5.30. It was mad to think that I could knock over half an hour off my time. But the stats added up. However in the 2 weeks before DCM I got 3 worrying niggles which wouldn’t subside and had to hope rest would save the day alongside spending a lot of time with Grainne working on said areas.  It really knocked me. No matter how many times I heard you’ve done all the hard work relax, I couldn’t. I’d worked so hard and I could see the dream slipping away and even at that I’d convinced myself that it was going to be a close call having nightmares of 5.30.01 as my finishing time.

Roll on race day

It was a fine October morning in Dublin…too fine if you ask me. The hotel was hiving at breakfast as I relaxed and enjoyed a lovely breakfast, I glanced across the room I spotted some of the Newcastle A.C. crew getting in the zone. I didn’t feel one bit of nerves. For the first time the whole training phase, I was calm and in control. I have to admit a few early morning messages did get me all teary but I was immensely proud of so many friends who had also worked hard, driven by their own stories and reasons for being there and together we were all hoping to kick ass. 
As we set off for the starting area Kenny was well hyped up and ready for action. A vision in yellow and red – a contrast to last year’s red and black that we both wore on race day. Though race vests aside he’s kept an eye out for me over the past year and I’d promised to not take any mid-race selfies this year to save time. Turned out neither did he as he knocked 12 minutes off his time this year. 

Being filed around the starting area to baggage drop was well handled and I thankfully wasn’t picked for a random bag search. I’d have had fun explaining the tin of vodka and diet coke and a riverrock bottle of vodka in the bag with only a jacket.

Moving along we bumped into some familiar faces. Janet and Michael from OR and Sean Looby as again this year he took to the start of DCM.

Toilet queues where mad but we’d left enough time to get using them and it wasn’t long before we began moving to the start line. My phone buzzed to say Alan and Kenny had crossed the line and that was my cue to turn the Wi-Fi off and game face well and truly on.

Sadly Caitriona hadn’t been feeling the best the past few days and we agreed that if anything happened to any of us, our watches allowed for text messages to come through so to let us know. Caitriona made it to 7 mile before she made the tough call to pull out. Devastated for her though I was relieved when I got the message as I went through Phenoix Park. 26.2 mile is rotten when in full fitness never mind whilst not feeling well. 

So deja-vu all over again, kissed Michael good luck but told him this time, I’ll see you around 3 and we were off. Again a few familiar faces passed in the early stages including comments like ‘I thought you where never running again after Knockagh.’ Brenda had opted to stick with me in the early stages of the race. I was grateful for her being there to keep me focused and also helped drive her on too. 

Mile 1: ah here we go again and by half a mile in I was already ready to break every set of clappers round Dublin. It was a busy first few mile but I saw plenty of smiley supporters even if they didn’t see me! Yes Lorraine I saw you and your groovy hat!

Mile 2: gosh it’s warm. Passed Janet Mooney and gave her abuse for stopping for pictures mid race. She did say come on get in but my immediate reaction was ‘Dermot Mathers would have my head on a plate if he saw me in a picture mid race

Mile 3: I should really take more water on board. But hey Pheonix park is ahead and I’ll rein it in. Brenda is still with me and we both comment that Michael made the right call to run without his vest and just his compression top it was a lot warmer than anyone had anticipated. 

Mile 4: look there’s Joe and Tony. The 4 of us have a running hug and we wish them well and on their way 

Mile 5: Brenda is leaving me ūüėĘūüėĘūüėĘ I’m on my own now, for how long, god knows.

Mile 6: a much needed shout out and high 5 from Brendan, Anne and Shona from MAC. 

Mile 7: Castleknock by far the best part of the marathon. I’m well ahead of my pace band and begin to start telling myself to start to think more about the long game. I may be comfortable at 7 mile but could be a different story at 17.

Mile 8: it’s so easy to tell when a pacer is near, you seem all alone and the people spread out then all of a sudden you hear the thud of the steps and chatter of the large group. I moved over to let the 4.30 pacers past. This time last year it was the 5hour pacer passing me so I was improving at this point.

Mile 9: much needed hug from Caroline and checking in how she was doing. Ive just received word through that Caitriona had pulled out. ūüėē

Mile 10: Already?? That was quick…yeah watch confirms my suspicions I’m going quicker than I ever have. This is not good marathon practice Siobhan! For once I should listen to my own advice.

Mile 11: First time I walked the whole race. I walked Ballyfermot hill but got stuck straight back in, 15 more mile to the next beer stop sign made me laugh. 15 mile isn’t far is it? 

Mile 12: Spotted by Brendas mum and dad and got such a group hug from them. Kinda wish I’d parents who’d make the journey to stand and cheer me on at such an occasion. But no time to talk and pushed on up the hill to the bright green arch saying HALF WAY

Mile 13: booya! Half distance! Oh shit if that’s not a half pb I’m literally seconds off it. Kick myself for being a complete tosser and hope I dont pay for it later on.also inform those around me for a bit of a laugh that guess what… the winners are finished. Did wonder how Alan was doing and how close to the end he was…on hindsight he wasn’t too far away! 

Mile 14: ah I remember these next 3 mile the miles of – Yeah half way but ack shit I’ve still so long to go. This is where I started to find bodies along the side of the road. People stretching, those who wanted to give up and locals trying to encourage runners back onto the road.

Mile 15: Met Noreen from Jog Moira we put in this long straight mile together. With it being her first she wanted to know for it get easier after 20…and not one to be brutally honest I told her it is fecking awful. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best and all that.

Mile 16: I had taken on board an extra gel as I hadn’t planned for the heat to effect me as much. The wee man at 16 looked at me weirdly when I lifted 3 gels and shoved them into my pocket. 21 mile was a long way away lol

Mile 17: I’ve now resorted to lifting 2 bottles of water at the water stops. One to drink there and then and one to carry along the way. It was around 12.30 and for once I wanted the Sun in Ireland to go away. The South Africians beside me laughed as I ranted at the sun. Of course they would have to love the heat. 

Mile 18: I meet Natalie from a running group I’m a part off, Run Mummy Run. We agree that we have to stop meeting each other at dcm and maybe meet for a drink instead of putting ourselves through this.

Mile 19: I’m bang on target with a few minutes to spare. I bump into Team Kerr and delighted to see them back on the road. It was only right I got an Aaron hug and admired the new racing chair which they had made to get them back on the road.

Mile 20: And the race begins. I know exactly what is ahead and at this point I am very lonely. Yes I’m surrounded by hundreds. But my head is lonely and I know I’ve 10k to do in 1hr20. I begin revisiting my worst 10ks… minnowburn and seas2sky where all similar times. But I had this. I kept telling myself to just keep moving. As I knew I was beginning to mentally sabotage my own race.

Mile 21: Gearing up for heartbreak hill and stuff another few gels in my pocket. The ground was sticky from the previous runners and felt like the backs of my legs where being pulled apart. So moved to the other side of the road to avoid sticky ground.

Mile 22: Last year it was Faithless’ Insomnia playing, this year it was Cotton Eye Joe as I climbed heartbreak hill. I was beginning to struggle. I knew I had the pb in the bag but what side of 5.30 was it going to be. Then I was joined by Donna. Donna and I met around mile 20 last year in DCM and have put many miles in together over the past year. She gave me the kick I needed. She was headed for a 5.15 and I knew if I kept her in sight for as long as I could I’d get there under the 5.30.  

Mile 23: parkrun to go! And I still had Donna in my sights. I had hit bang on my second pacing band so I had no room for error over the next 3 mile. I kept telling myself to keep my shit together.

Mile 24: I just need to get this mile over me where the hell is the RDS! I know when I’m there I’ve only a mile to go. I’m not tried, nothing is sore there’s just some miscommunication between my head and my feet. But I’m moving forward and I focus on all the signs. A fella beside me is telling me he was with the 4.50 pacers but cramped. I was filled with memories of Derry and how awful it was to have my race slip away. I couldn’t let that happen to me. 

Mile 25: Its wall to wall people from here to the finish though people shouting it’s only 800m to go from here at just past the mile sign makes 800m go on forever. Hitting the real 800m I glanced at my watch. I’ve 7 minutes to make it sub 5.30. As I pick myself up I look around and there are friends and family running with people in tears and shouts of encouragement from those who had finished.

Out of the corner of my eye I spot Caitriona. She had come to the finishing straight to cheer us home. I was bursting with admiration for her. At that point I dug deep and pushed on. 

Mile 26: I saw the finish line and as I looked up at the clock I wasn’t sure did it say 5.29.50 or 5.28.50 so I belted down the green carpet to see it had just turned 5.29.00 I had did it. I literally jumped over the line. Photos not flattering at all. Also should have remembered that I didn’t start at the front of the wave. So official time was 5.28.27

The worlds worst finishing photo

The celebrations

It was an immediate case of take my phone out to tell the world before even collecting my medal. First a message to Dermot, and as my phone kicked in messages from Jennifer and Laura Jane came through- crazy marathon tracking stalkers lol

I was able to check times of those I was tracking and saw Michael had made great time too. I picked up my medal and as a marshal stuck his hand out to congratulate me I burst into tears. Such a big hug was required. So to avoid being a total creep I gathered myself got my t-shirt and could see Michael waiting at the end of the path. 

Who cares that I had just ran a marathon I ran full speed towards him and nearly knocked him down- had forgot he had just ran a marathon too and might not have been too steady oops. As we round the corner we bump into the master of hugs himself Joe. We’d shared many passing hugs in training and now at the end of the marathon here we were finished and would be rude not to have another hug.

Heading down to bag drop I check in on Brenda and she is nearing the end. Looking like a sub 6 and buzzing for her. 

lso come across the dynamic marathon duo of Linda and Jackie and got to share my excitement.

I am Siobhan Grant and I’ve been sober for 28 days of October. Not any more

Auntie Tina messages to tell me congratulations and I’m sure she is very amused by the photo above.

We get into the pub and locate the others. Nicola and Michelle who where chief supporters where delighted to see I was alive and got the sub 5.30. 

I spotted Kenny… My phones dead how did you do?

Super excitement as I jump about telling him about taking 34 minutes off and smashing last year. Word spread amongst the others and I was overwhelmed by the congratulations especially from those runners who do sub 3 hour marathons. Niall King introduced me to everyone as -this girl just took 34minutes of her time. Beat being the Bank Managers wife lol 

In amongst the crew at the pub was a delighted Miley with yet another spectacular run.

I spied Brenda and Caitriona arriving in. Delighted for Brenda and the world’s biggest hug for Caitriona who broke down crying on my shoulder. What an emotional day but my mission was not complete. 

I made up for a month of no drinking and was enjoying the post marathon celebrations. Michael had signalled a few times to go home but always ended up with another pint somehow. 

I wish I could remember this conversation

Finally we made a bee line for some food and no other place to go other than Eddie Rockets. God knows what shape we were in but we did eat and Brenda the world’s best sat nav got us on the right way home.

The best post race shower ever! Zero chaffing. Weeks of torture and methods to reduce chaffing nailed on the day, it was needed. Got out of the shower to find Michael passed out in bed. So something comfortable on and down for a night cap with the girls. 

I didn’t sleep the whole night. I read everything in the news and counted down the hours. My legs where suffering from restlessness and I couldn’t switch off. At 5am I got up and began a few hours of drinking minging Dublin tea. Before finally giving into going for breakfast and heading home.

Body was feeling grand and I still turned up on Monday night to run with the beginners group and get to personally thank Dermot for putting up with my shite and to get everything off my chest about the race.

I like him more than I dislike him- don’t tell him that though!

The aftermath analysis 
So an immense PB.. . I should in theory be buzzing. I am proud of what I achieved but I’m very much all meh about it now. 

I’d never trained for time, actually I’ve never really trained in that way in my life. It was a long aul hog and pressure, expectation and exhaustion throughout does take its toll. I know that I am the only one who held myself accountable and it is nothing anyone around me said or did. So really I’ve only myself to blame. However knowing that was able to turn out sessions like I did was an eye opener to what I can achieve if I work hard. Also it was a confidence boost of epic proportions that I knew I would be knocking on a substantial PB.

I can dissect the race further and have done with Dermot, Michael and the girls. Yes I got what I went in for but there is always room for improvement. It wasn’t the smoothest run of my life. I’ve ran better in training. Also I do think the pressure of the occasion got to me and played havoc with me in the latter stages and don’t start me on the heat. 

It’s also been highlighted to me that I maybe didn’t enjoy DCM as much as any other race as I have been running for the craic so much that when I got serious and focused on a specific time, I lost essentially the essence of what brings me to the start line time and time again. 

So it’s now about finding the balance of what I want from my running in the coming year. I’ve a few ideas and aims for 2018 already set in stone but I want to find that balance where I can continue to improve but also to hold onto the fun element of running. I’m never going to be a podium finisher but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be the best I can. I guess you can’t have it everyway!

For now though I’m recovering well, my body has bounced back and I’m more mentally exhausted than physically. 

So that’s the closure on DCM17. This week will see me hit 1000 miles and with a wee jont out for Run In Dark 10k mid November and the EAMS back2back Half Marathons at the end of December. I need to get fully recovered and stuck back in again in a week or 2. 


18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

The last time I toed the line for a race was 6 weeks ago for my biggest running accolade yet… the Knockagh Ultra.

In the time since I took myself and Tony around 50k, I have taken my training pretty seriously (about time) and have put everything I can into my prep for Dublin. 

I had toyed with doing the Irish 3/4 marathon however the hefty price tag put me off. I spotted the Annaghmore Running Festival which seemed to know that there would be a few critters like myself looking something beyond a half to fit into their DCM training plan. This was perfect – 18 mile, ‘ rolling hills’ and didn’t break the bank whilst all fitting in with the long run plans. This appealed to all bodies in the Grant household.

Cant beat a race where organiser don’t take the piss on price plus funds where donated to the Southern Area Hospice a charity close to my heart.

A perfect opportunity to trial race day, pace, fitness, outfit, fuelling etc. I’ve always had my sights set on Annaghmore as a true indication of how well the 40+ miles a week was influencing my running. So when I had a week where my 18 miler was a tad off desired pace, a dodgy hip encounter but cracker mid week endurance runs I was feeling optimistic about the run ahead.

With everything ready to rock n roll we set of for County Armagh from Castlewellan. The weather was perfect, although there was an autumn chill in the air, the sky was blue, the sort of morning that does your heart good. 

Arrived in Annaghmore after taking the scenic route there and picked up our packs. Caitriona had seemingly signed up for the race in her head and not actually done it. But the guys where great at sorting her out with a number and didn’t openingly judge her ūüôą me on the other hand… I found it absolutely hilarious! Nearly as funny as watching the fella pin the race bib to a girls boobs. ūüôą

The crowds rolled in and within them a surprised addition of Alan Johnson who had only 2 weeks previously told me he had planned to wash his hair that morning when I suggested doing Annaghmore. He had obviously delayed that to run 18mile around the beautiful Armagh countryside.

It was great to see familiar faces, Hugh had popped along for the half, Eamon was out to do the 5k, Caroline had on a whim signed up mid week to do the 18 miler and Mic√©al donned his NCR vest for a long run also with fellow NCR team mates Patricia and Cathal there too. Also I had to admire that Michael had pulled on the trainers yet again for another marathon crash training course including the 18miler. He knew worse case scenario would be falling back to run with me. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. At worse I’d have to drive home.

Setting off to the start line

We set off and within 0.3 of a mile there was the first of many, many hills we were going to encounter. Seeing that the half and the 18 miler set off together, I was optimistic that there might be a some people in around my pace to keep as markers or company even. But from about a mile in, I was alone. However I’ve ran many a race where I’ve been on my own for a long time and I’ve enough confidence in my pace and ability to finish longer races and to keep focused, running my own race and not try to keep with the crowd. 

I settled in quite quickly with the game plan of simply keeping under 12.30s to come in at 3.45. I’d hoped to hit 5 mile on the hour, 10 mile just beyond the 2hr mark and a 1.45 8 mile to finish. 

Aye the biggest understatement of the day

As we set off in to fantastic country roads lined with orchards and endless green fields everything was going great. Plenty of marshals in place and markers which where bang on distance wise and arrows to help. 

The first water stop at 5 mile was welcomed and I noticed that we were to come back that road. We turned into a trail section which was like something out of a fairy tale and there was the front runners coming my way. I didn’t know whether they where half runners or 18 milers but they where flying. 

Hats off to the leading man who was full of encouragement and even high fived. I was to meet him again later on towards the end of his race where he was just as humble and supportive. 

 For the record Caroline took this picture of the Orchard

 wasn’t surprised to see Alan cruising along, with him at around his 11 mile and me at just short of 6. Was quietly all biz that for once I was over half of where Alan was meaning I wasn’t as per normal practice twice as slow… I was getting faster ūüôĆūüôĆūüôĆ

The middle section of miles flew in. I’d hit 5mile at 1hr on the nose and 10 mile I was delighted to have come in under the 2 hours. I was bang on target and the race was going to plan. I was feeling fresh and in control. Passing Alan again, as he made running look easy, I was delighted that he had decided to not wash his hair as he was taking a comfortable 2nd place. 

As I entered into mile 12 I knew I was making good time. I clocked a 2nd fastest half marathon and as I passed this point a drive by marshal checked in on me to offer water/sweets and check I was ok. 

I reassured them I was fine and would make 18 mile so not to worry. I knew from the 12 mile water stop that I was self sufficient for the rest of the race. Afterall there are many races where the backrunners are left without marshal support and/or fuel stops have been packed up so I’m always prepared just in case. However I can not praise the organisers highly enough as 3 times throughout my last 5 mile I had drive by Marshals as well as marshals still in place in many spots. A true testament to the conscientious planning and execution of the event.

Highlight of the race… Mile 15

Watched beeped for mile 15 and had just finished a gradual incline at 14. A tight hill faced me and I made it but after the plethora of hills earlier on I didn’t recover from that hill as quick as I had wanted. At 15.5 there was another hill. I spoke to myself and said wise up Siobhan you’ve yet to be beaten by a hill today and haven’t stopped so motor on. So I did and got to the top and enjoyed a wee downhill. However… 15.75 there was another hill and it was a lot bigger than the previous 2. Out loud, I cursed the hill and declared that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to run it and I walked it. First time the whole race that I actually walked. 

I just knew it wasn’t worth fighting my way up it as I knew there where a few more hills ahead that I had already ran down. Once I got to the top it was back on it and headed for home. I was again delighted to be greeted by marshals still at their posts and the support from runners and locals in the last mile was much appreciated as going against everything else the race had thrown at me….it finished on a cracker downhill.

As I turned into the club grounds I was greeted by applause from everyone on site and there was Michael, Caroline and Mic√©al waiting on me to finish. 

Yay for a run that we all were happy with

I glanced down at my watch and couldn’t believe it – 3.40. I may have been one of the last to finish, 2nd last to be exact but I felt like I had won. I’m never going to be a podium finisher but when a race plan comes together flawlessly and I crossed the line knowing that my DCM dream was very much alive and on track. That’s what I strive for from a race.

I got congratulations from the organisers and they knew I’d Pb’d as I was buzzing as I crossed the line. I was even more delighted that Michael had come in, in good time and so did Caroline giving her the reassurance for DCM too.

I was offered freshly cooked burgers and an array of sandwiches. All was plentiful and even had a bottle of Coors Light. Now I know there was no medal for this run. But let’s face it, I have a t-shirt, burger and beer. That is a perfect substitute for any bling. For what we paid to be apart of the event, this was beyond expectations. 

Finding out also that it was an inaugural event was even more impressive as to me, it ran flawlessly.

Caitriona finished proceedings for the day as she came in well ahead of her estimated time also getting her back on track for Dublin. 

So will I be back… definitely. Even though I know the hills will still be there, it was a solid training run with many challenges including making heartbreak hill in Dublin look like a speed bump. There was a huge crowd for the multi race event considering it was competing against Bangor 10k AND Monaghan Pheonix Marathon. A great foundation for next year. 

So resting up now before a very tough week of training ahead. This time 4 weeks it’ll all be over. ūüôą