Category: friendship

Run a lot…nap some more

Run a lot…nap some more

Well another week just shy of 40 miles completed and a multitude of mini naps to keep me alive.

After what I can now name the week of the curse of the 15 miler as hindsight and Strava let me see that every 15miler that I’ve done has been horrible. I was hoping to pick myself up and keep on running…but after I had a nap obviously.

Day 1: Beginners early graduation plus some.

I was tasked with taking 3 of the beginners for their non stop 5k run as they would miss next weeks session. In amongst the 3 was the mother in law. The woman who I can solely blame for getting the 21stone Siobhan off her bum and into the gym. She had swapped mountain walking to give the 5k challenge a bash. All 3 of them smashed it and was super proud that they didn’t throw me into the sea at any point. It was a lovely run and really enjoyable.

Afterwards I had planned to run 4 mile with Michael as we swapped the kids over to granny (handy) for an hour. But knowing Michael needed that wee bit more than plodding with me, we ended up with the progressives and boy did I learn that sometimes its ok to be selfish and just look after yourself and not give a shit about others. Although it was right up his street, I forgot how strong the progressives where and I was running beyond my 10k race pace when I should have been doing an easy run. I did think I was going to collapse and knew this would catch up with me.

Day 2: Intervals

Lactate Threshold Run- aka I don’t care what you call it, its fecking awful!

I paid for the run the night before 3 fold. I now know why I should stick to the plan as I couldn’t even rely on myself to remember the structure of the session and had to write it on my hand!

Day 3: I’m broke

The lesson of this week was learnt on Wednesday. I got up and went to do my 5k easy as per plan. But as I walked towards the start of where I planned to warm up and run, my legs just didn’t have it. I am always fit to walk but even the thought of a 5k easy filled the legs with dread. So against the plan, I took to the red trial at Tollymore, not overly tough but some good inclines and fabulously peaceful track.

You sometimes forget how beautiful places are. As I walked along tracks where sun flooded through the trees. The Shimna River was picking up pace as the rain water from the mountain had worked its way down to lower levels and it rushed over the stepping stones. If anything this did my head the world of good.

Though when I reported back after veering off plan, my fear that I was going to be told off was met with the complete opposite. The wise man, although sometimes can be scary (actually he never is, he just likes to think he is) does get it and as he could tell I was panicking he was able to say the right things to make me realise that I did the right thing and taking another day to gather myself was ok. Looking at the bigger picture and the want to do well on Thursdays run I lost most of the guilt.

Took the girls back to Tollymore that evening for intervals and for me it was a nice static session as we covered Hill repeats. I was joined by Michael and the kids too. Though the kids were more interested in joining in than playing in the park and put everyone to shame. A stark reminder that I will never do parkrun with Rónán ever!

Day 4 : Back on it with my mid week endurance run

I have to say that yesterdays first of many meltdowns and doubts to come in the next 6 weeks was put to bed on this run. I got up and although bitterly cold I was determined to not fall into the dark hole of not being on plan and self pity. So back to the new favourite route and parked up at the 12 arches.

The body and mind had benefited from the active recovery yesterday around Tollymore though was I going to be able to maintain projected marathon pace over 8 mile after a less than par long run on Saturday when I didn’t hit the pace even over 1 mile.

Used the wind at my back for the first mile towards Newcastle to get me going and then turned to run straight into the wind for 4 mile. Sure it’ll be at my back for the last 3 mile as a little help in hand. I was comfortable and tried not to clock watch. Instead I ditched even looking at pace and set myself a simple maths challenge for the run. To be each mile ahead of projected time, so Mile 1- 12.30, Mile 2- 25 etc. And as long as I came in under that I was on course.

Didn’t even lose pace on the hill and was actually my 2nd fastest mile of the run following the run back down it. As I got to the top and had beat the hill and the wind, I turned to come back with the wind behind me. That was great until I hit Dundrum and the wind changed direction to become a head wind! The world was against me.

But I had time to play with so was delighted when I beeped at 8mile and averaged a 12.03. Back on point!

Day 5: Rest

There’s nothing ruins rest day than the bing of messenger and the schedule for the next week coming through. Its like, hope you are enjoying your rest, this is how I plan to try to kill you this week. But as always, putting faith in the training is what will get me to the end of the race alive and hopefully happy. Still doesn’t mean I have to like seeing it when I’m contemplating the longest run of the week.

Day 6: The Long Run – 17 mile
After last weeks horrendous long run on my own, I was relieved to have offer of company. Not that I’m ever short of it but I have been trying to not talk as much mid run and that meant I’ve had to run alone and also find my own pace. I had Laura Jane and Jennifer lined up this weekend to join me. Although both quicker than me normally, they both had other objectives of their own that meant they had to drop their pace for distance which suited me to upped my pace to meet them half way.

So as the sun came up over the 12 arches (again) Laura Jane met me with intentions to run 8 mile and clock her longest run to date this year. So we set off on my 6 mile loop round Dundrum and enjoyed a steady run. I didn’t have an exact pace in mind, I just wanted to keep going and not stop to walk. Back to the 12 arches and Jennifer was there on cue.

We set off again having to slow Jennifer down an tad on her fresh legs. Reaching 7.5 mile Laura Jane had not only surpassed the 10k mark but turning at this point would result in clocking 9 mile. She was still fresh looking and delighted that she had gone so far, so comfortably. We parted ways and headed into the second half of the run.

Jennifer and I had found our stride and although not as talkative as normal, the craic was still good and helped get us through as time flew. Reaching Jennifers 9mile limit as she was doing Belfast half the next day, it didn’t take much to encourage her to run another 2 mile with me to bring her to 11 mile and me to 17. Quote of the day “I’m still running aren’t I” her reply to fancy 2 more mile.

Mile 16 went on forever but at the turn I knew we where homeward bound as we passed some familiar faces again on the road. The beep went for mile 17. I stopped the watch and hit save. I hadn’t been watching my pace much and was beyond ecstatic that I had clocked 12.14s for the whole 17 mile. Like seriously where did that come from? I hugged Jennifer and thanked her for her support. Maybe, just maybe I might actually manage that on the day and the additional 9 mile wont be so horrible. I’ve faith now that the sub 6 is definitely on, but its not time to focus on that and to just keep rocking on and ticking the boxes on the plan everyday.

I was buzzing all day!

Though as I approached the cup and saucer I spotted a vision of MAC and NCR colours coming down the road. Could this day get any better? It was Joe and Micéal out on Joes Journeys. 1- I was glad to see Micéal running saving me from having to ask him AGAIN had he run. and 2- I’ve been dying for a hug from Joe for weeks! And of all days our paths had crossed on our long runs, even if I was technically driving home. So pulled the car up the kerb and jumped out to disturb their run for a hug and some love. Perfect end to the perfect run.
On the 7th day…she rested

Bloody sures I did! Instead I got great joy out of seeing Michael get kitted up and heading out for 10mile, because that’s what you do when you haven’t run in over 2 months. He’s still alive but no point talking to him.

Was delighted to see some great performances at Belfast half across the board, including Jennifer adhering to my threat of more reps if she did a sub 2.30 at Belfast. Training run with a medal does not mean bust yourself. Bigger fish and all that.

So bigger miles this week leaving us with 6 weeks to go.

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Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Ok I know this is well overdue but with having the Ultra at Knockagh the week after Rock n Roll, I found myself immediately on my return from Dublin launching straight into the zone and spending the week afterwards, recovering from it all.

I had always had my sights set on the Half Marathon in Dublin as an opportunity for me to go out and leave nothing on the course. It had been over a year since I’d clocked a half personal best, putting it down to simply pushing up the miles for DCM and then Derry. But with the huge increase in miles over the past year, I began to wonder why I wasn’t getting any faster.

Ok it was obvious that my training held the answer to that. The lack of speed training in my then non existent plan meant that yes I was happy to plod along for 13, 17, 20 miles but although building endurance my speed never picked up and actually went the other way.

So with being crowned the Ulster Rock n Run Idol, this was my chance to shine. After Derry Marathon I got my act together and began intervals with the girls on Wednesday nights and it wasn’t long before not only I, but Jennifer started to clock better times. With Summer upon me also, it freed me up to take to the mountains on active recovery days and even the mental advantages of that where priceless as I wondered aimlessly up the Mournes for hours on end, sometimes on my own, sometimes dragging someone along.

At Ards Half, I was a mere 50seconds of my PB and I was treating the race as a welcome back to running after Derry Marathon a few weeks earlier. And then the bright idea of tackling Knockagh 50k Ultra presented itself, so no more excuses, it was game face with Rock n Roll now being an invaluable race as part of taper and endurance.

So the weekend went like this.

Friday

Note this became a weekend away with the girls. It was Brendas birthday and Michael being on the bench didn’t mind staying behind. So off we set to Dublin on the Friday evening. I had flirted with the idea of even a 5k PB on the Saturday at the 1st race. That all went out the window as we arrived into the RnR VIP party on Friday night.

Teaming together with the Dublin RnR Idol, Keith and his dashing significant other, Stephen, I would love to go into further details on what happened next but its a bit hazy so the general consensus was that maybe it was a good thing that Sinead won the competition as the two of us where certain to be liabilities in Vegas. When you feel the need to teach a barman how to pour a proper glass of wine, this is where we went wrong. It was gone past 2 before we crawled into bed and alarms set to get up for the 1st of 3 races that weekend.

 

Saturday

Not good. Not good at all. I will say this, the best thing I could have done was get up and go outside, even to run (using that term lightly). Serious case of being hungover, but thankfully I wasn’t the worst, isn’t that right Jennifer. Who cares about Personal Bests, Saturdays race was solely about Personal Worsts. Together we made it round the course in just short of 43 minutes and a valuable lesson was learnt! NEVER AGAIN- at least as an ensemble we looked class together as the mini team of little misses.

The welcome taste of Mega Meanies and Lucozade (the staple diet of the weekend with Eddie Rockets) got me going post race and we spent Saturday chilling and fuelling the appropriate way for the Half Marathon on the Sunday.

Sunday

In all honesty I was just glad to be alive on Sunday. The antics of Friday had me wondering if I was even going to be fit for 13.1 mile. So with the intentions, sponsored by the toll bridge on the way down, to just arrive alive.

It was an early start. I had to be at the start line for a photo call with other idols and people involved and we had opted to walk to the Point/O2/3Arena or whatever it is called now. All dreams of a PB had gone out the window and I was just going to take things as they came.

Bumping into some other local running celebrities, The Roddy Sisters, we made our way to the start and spirits where high. I forget how big some events can be. So used to smaller scale runs, it was lovely to be surrounded by a sea of runners. The serious athletes, the groups tackling this together, those in fancy dress and then your average joes like me out to pass a Sunday morning and earn some fabulous bling.

Everyone within the RnR team where fabulous. A great family of event organisers who knew exactly how to work of eachother. Photos taken and it was a matter now of waiting for everything to kick off.

With Jennifer returning home on Saturday evening to compete in Monaghan 10/5 miler, it left Caitriona, Brenda and myself to tackle the half. We had stolen Janet to keep us in craic and little did I know that she was to play a huge part in my race in the latter stages.  It was a perfect day for running, overcast but not cold. Though it was to heat up.

As corrals began to cross the line from 8.30. It was nearing 9 before we crossed the mats and we stayed together as a threesome for the first mile or so. Losing Caitriona quite early on, Brenda and I ran side by side round Christchurch and past the Guinness Factory. What still to this day gets me wondering is why everyone was waiting to get their pictures taken mid race, outside St. James’ Gate. I get that its iconic but swing by after the race and get your photo!

Shortly after 5k, Brenda told me to motor on and she’d catch up. As we hit 4 mile, I wasn’t to see Brenda again and found company with the lovely ladies of Star, Derry. I always worry when someone knows me and I don’t know them but knowing a few of their clan, I was glad it wasn’t because I had been banned from Derry after the marathon after party!

I also began to notice a lot of the course was like DCM backwards and got this strange fuzzy feeling inside. I fondly look back on my run at Dublin and it was lovely, yet petrifying to be back on those roads again.

Losing the Derry girls, I entered into Ballyfermot with 2 lovely ladies from Sloggers to Joggers. They were upbeat and just what I needed. Full of craic and support. At around 5 mile as we swept around the corner to the climb to the back of Phoenix Park, I met a first time half marathoner from England. At this point also it began to heat up, the clouds had started to lift and the sun peaked out. We ran together until 8 mile. Her determination to not stop to walk was fabulous. In all honesty she kept me going as I thought to myself, there’s no need for me to stop, I’m fit to keep going. At the 8 mile water stop as we arrived in Phoenix Park, I told her I’d catch her and took on some water and a gel.

Here is where my race picked up no end. Janet came beside me as I was getting stuck back in. Janet and I have spent many miles together and as a fellow guide runner, we always have plenty to talk about. Yes I know if I’m talking, I’m not running hard enough but I love the company and she is faster than me so its a challenge to keep alongside her and one I contently managed on the day. As we fell in with some ladies from Duleek who were brilliant to pace off, we hit 10 mile.

I dared to look at my watch and knew that I was well ahead of where I had hoped to be. However, I was no sooner thinking about saying something when I spotted the medical team on the hill. And there was some poor soul flat on the ground. I knew after the way I died the previous day that anything could happen to me over the next 3 mile. So I kept it to myself and enjoyed the tale of Janet and Tony at the Twin Peaks Half Marathon.

At mile 11 I spotted Sinead, Sinead and Eileen on the brow of the hill and as lake buddies who I have passed multiple times in the past week going the other way it was nice to mob them and share the love for the lake!

Mile 12 I caught sight of my friend from earlier in the race, still going. Janet and I had picked up Donna, one third of the infamous Roddy Sisters and plenty of abuse was being hurled of course all with laced with love and respect. I knew I had the personal best even if I crawled the last mile but I was feeling strong and I was buzzing. The end was near and as we turned onto the final straight I could feel the overwhelming emotions of achieving the long awaited Half PB. This was made even more special as with 100m to go there where the cheers from my southern running family, Drogheda and District AC, who I adopted at Derry. 2.36 saw me knock over 5.5 minutes off my time from Cookstown Half in July 2016.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get through the finish funnel quick enough to phone Michael and tell him. I really missed not having him patiently waiting for me and unable to share the moment with him. I could barely talk and for once he was genuine and said well done, when I got home the next day, he was sure I could do better. Which I am not going to argue with.

Walking back to the DDAC contingent to cheer the girls home allowed me to share my excitement with everyone. It wasn’t long before we welcomed Brenda across the line and she was followed by Caitriona shortly after. We all arrived alive.

On completing the Half we had half an hour to get ourselves sorted for the fun run. 1.5 mile which we were treating as a cool down. Seems nearly everyone was doing the same but we crossed the line earning ourselves the 4th medal of the weekend.

A quick interview with the RnR crowd and we were free to bask in the glorious August Sunshine in our nations Capital.

Best way I can describe Rock n Roll is; It’s like Christmas for Runners. Plenty of bling, well thought out and organised route and surrounded by your running family. The craic was immense and no doubt I will be returning but think I will be avoiding the wine next time.

 

 

Leaving It All On The Road

Leaving It All On The Road

It’s funny how even though your focus is elsewhere in running, you still wonder why you haven’t achieved what you should have.

Ok it’s pretty obvious I don’t like shorter races. I’ve found myself quite content within the bigger miles. I’ve even caught myself saying yeah it’s only 13 mile. ONLY! What is wrong with me…thats a very long way. However not doing shorter races left me wondering what I was capable of over 5 and 10k in a race situation.

Cue 26 Extremes, Women’s Mini Marathon. It was the 10k race I did last year before beginning my climb in miles for DCM16 so you could say I was in 10k race fitness then. It had been the 4th time that year that I had clocked a 1.09 and the illusive 1.08.59 never happened. So I left 10ks behind and seemingly never returned to them.

I did plenty in training and did do both the Mourne Way Night 10k which was a serious bit of craic and then Newry 10k guiding the hippo but they weren’t races as such. 

I have spent the past month or so working hard in intervals and on the hills in amongst ridiculous miles as I train for my first 50k. I had pb’d at Rostrevor parkrun two weeks ago and was feeling strong. But with that comes the self doubt and obsessive behaviour of looking at times in longer races and debating pace.

A wise man once told me that if you want to go out and run a certain pace on race day…you’ve to train at that pace as to not shock the body. I’d completed sessions of epic jelly leg proportions and at that nerves set in. Yet all I had to do was just keep running.

Sunday morning I felt weird leaving the house with just my phone in my pocket and none of the paraphernalia I have with me for longer runs. Kept thinking I’d  forgot something. Arriving at Kilbroney it was the usual suspects who greeted me. And this is what I love about running. 

The running community is ace. I’m sure I could turn up at any race in the North and know a handful of people. The craic and banter was flowing as the threat of rain soon disappeared and the ground began to dry up. As nearly 300 women and their families gathered amongst the tunes and buzz of the event. 

I know 26 Extreme go by the ‘we don’t do easy’ tagline which they do live up to 99% of the time. However the Mini Marathon is one of their races which flirts with being a normal run. I said flirts!  8k of tarmac along a beautiful country road shadowed by the mountains. Then you ascend up towards Kilbroney to hit a hill where the language heard on that hill is let’s say, colourful. Finishing on the most immense downhill finish through the trails which would take every last ounce of hill training to nail perfectly to use to your full advantage.

On the buses we got and as we passed the 8k point all that could be heard across the whole bus was ‘that’s the hill.’ In fairness, it isn’t the worst, it’s short and sharp however after 5k of a downhill it is a shock to the system. 

I did have to laugh that out of all the buses there where, the ‘naughty crew’ had randomly all got on the same bus. So amongst friends and our running family there was plenty of laughs to be had. 

Starting the race we set off toward Leitrim Lodge. Knowing the route, I just wanted to get to 3k in good time. A gradual climb but nothing I couldn’t handle. Passing Leitrim Lodge I thought about how much I had rather have been up the mountain than running. But as I looked ahead I could see on the brow of the hill the NCR colours of Patricia Brown leading the pack. 

It was hard to catch my breath, it was very humid however I could hear the same panting all around me. So I knew everyone was feeling it. Passing Santa’s Cottage I had found myself in amongst friends. Laura Jane had pushed on at the start and I was delighted to see that as she undertook her first 10k since returning to running. I could still see Jennifer which was my plan but she was far enough away so I couldn’t catch her. And beside me was Donna who had come down for the event after a tough run the day before at Dark Hedges Half. We played cat and mouse for a bit and she found her stride and took off in the direction of Jennifer to catch her.

The 3k point arrived and strangely I said to myself gosh that was quick, 2k was only a few minutes ago. How times have changed. Working in miles means that the kms come thick and fast. Here I began to run along side Janet. Another eejit who had completed the half the day before and PBd on the course. Having spent many a mile with Janet over the year, the most memorable being the last lap of the LOS recce and the 20 at Knockagh, I knew keeping pace with her would keep me focused and on track. 

As my watch beeped every mile I could see my pace was strong and I aimed to keep it under the 11 min/miles. I knew I could let the hill take me down to Kilbroney and that the hill wouldn’t hinder me too much. 

Lorraine had made up ground on me and although we were both giving our all we were able to keep eachother going and moving. Even as we turned to the hill I recall telling her not to stop and we made it to the top together. Into the trails, down the track I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ran down it. It was here I knew the pb was about to become a reality.

Race maths does help me pass the time. But knowing turning onto the hill with a mile to go I could walk the whole way and beat last year’s time gave me a real buzz that I haven’t felt in a while. I had no idea exactly what time I would come in. As I turned onto the caravan park onto the parkrun route I knew it was all or nothing. 

I started to pick people off as we approached the final hill down. Even finding myself on the grass taking over. I was literally giving every thing I had. I was determined to catch Lorraine out in front and as I did, managing to feel her bum on the way past, I powered onto the flat where my legs turned to concrete. It was the clock 100m in front of me that kept me moving. The wee red numbers reading 1.06. 

I crossed that line knowing I had did it into the arms of 26 Extremes finest, Emma. Who said ‘take it that’s a PB Siobhan’ I could barely talk but just smiled. 

Grabbing a bottle of water and the event beer thank you Mourne Brewery, I’m getting used to celebrating with a bottle of your finest these days, I headed into the crowd of finishers. I spotted Laura Jane and delighted to hear that she had done so well. 

Then I bumped into the wise man himself. Think it’s the first time a race ever brought tears to my eyes. I could barely spit out that I had taken 3 minutes off my time. I just stood and cried. Another tick on the list of mad and mental attributes I’ve displayed in running. 

You see the thing is, I don’t even like 10ks simply because of the pressure you put on yourself. At HM I have a 15 minute window where I would like to finish time wise, however 10ks is very much a very very small window if I want to be happy with my time. I put the pressure on myself so I cant blame anyone else. So to have clocked up 50k last week before setting foot across the line on Sunday, I knew I had a battle on my hands with tired but possibly strong legs. And to pull a fast 10k when you are turning out long 20mile runs for an Ultra was a pipe dream.

Celebrating with everyone on the line was great. Caitriona and Brenda had put in strong runs and Donna caught up with Jennifer. Delighted to see the now run/walk duo of Liz and Aine powering through the distance. Denise had words of wisdom and the Ormeau Runners posse keep Kilbroney looking bright. Of course I can’t forget The Dame, running royalty herself. Who always makes me smile and her jokes of being taken up the Knockagh backwards where welcomed.

So more miles and more smiles amongst us all. I had actually surprised myself yet now I’m wondering what I can pull out of the bag at Rock n Roll in 2 weeks. I clocked not only a 10k pb but also a 5k pb. I was so busted after I didn’t manage a celebratory drink until Monday evening. I’ve recovered quicker from Marathons. 

So it seems training hard does pay off and I’ve been back to the road this week with an impending 20miler this Saturday if anyone wants to do multiple laps of the lake? 

With August riddled with events all over the place the full naughty crew is due to reconvene in force together at Causeway in September. But plenty of running to be done in the meantime. Let’s just start praying now that the sun will shine down on us at Causeway this year but sure we’d a great time last year in the rain! Either way I’m sure it’ll be another cracker event by 26 Extreme.

Sign up for Causeway HERE

Will I…won’t I? 50 days to Derry

Will I…won’t I? 50 days to Derry

I’ve had a rough few weeks flirting with the dreaded bench. 

I knew I hadn’t been right since Carlingford half but put it down to shin splints and did what I could to keep on running that equates as an unhealthy obsession and dependence on deep heat, foam rolling, anti-inflamatories and complete ignorance towards being injured. 

It wasn’t until I went to physio to begin my big mile love and care for my legs that I realised that it wasn’t just an ongoing bout of shin splints. The look on Grainnes face when she came across the lump was of shocked followed by ‘how long has this been like this.’

I managed my 20.6 mile at Knockagh grand with taking it easy and a good pain killer strategy. Though knew I was going to have to take time off after. 

So began 10 days on the injury bench and zero running after the Monday night session with The Running Coaches beginners and progressives and 7 miles of cursing Dermot up and down whilst in agnony. The fact that for once I really meant even word I procrastinated about the whole way round was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Needless to say the 3 physio appointments and complete rest in those 10 days have had a profound effect on what ever yon lump in my leg is, it just hasn’t totally disappeared yet. 
Of course 10 days not running was playing havoc with marathon training and my mind. Although I’d trained for a spring marathon (that I wasn’t running) and had all the miles I needed in the legs I feared being back at square 1 so the need to long run was my priority with Derry getting closer by the day.  So I decided to take the risk and get out there.

My first port of call was the bike. So agreeing to join Caitriona for her 16 miler I was going to just be a mobile water station. So getting my miles one way or another. However the night before, I realised that the front tyre wasn’t for staying blown up and took it as a sign that I was meant to run after all.

Let’s face it this decision was going to produce 1 of 2 results. 1 being that of pure devastation that I wasn’t much better and couldn’t run or 2 I was still moving and able to function if only for a few mile and I could build up again.

Thankfully as we set off at ridiculously early o’clock on Saturday morning, the result was the latter. The first mile was a cautious one. On a predominately flat route along the Dundrum Road, I found my rhythm and talking a lot more than normal to move focus off my body I was soon content that I’d make the first 6 mile. In moments of silence..yes they do occur, Caitriona prompted  me to keep talking and shift my focus until it was elsewhere. 

It was a beautiful morning as the sun came up over Dundrum Bay. There were few cars on the road which you would expect at 7am on Easter Saturday morning and it was just us and the path.

In order to alleviate as much pressure as possible I wore my DCM shorts for the first time since then and compression socks. Even I had to laugh at the state of myself. I am not built for such an ensemble. But luckily running isn’t a fashion parade and if it worked I didn’t care. 

Caitriona had masterminded a new route for us moving from the confines of the park and into public view. Parking at the 12 Arches and heading out towards Mount Panter, back through Dundrum taking the old roads back to the car. Measuring 6.2 perfect. This worked well for fuelling and water stops so for the next 10 mile we headed for Newcastle.

With intentions to do a tour of the town and back to base, The thought of moving through streets and houses on such a sunny morning filled me with dread. We had got to just short of 8 as we approached Newcastle and decided that if we turned back, we’d refuel at 10 and do another loop of the same route. With the wind minimal and knowing the scenic route ahead it was a no brainer and on hitting 8 mile we turned back towards Murlough. 

At this stage the world had woken up and enroute to club run and Longstone 10k there were many fellow MAC members spotting us and tooting as they passed.

At 12 mile I was was going to throw Caitriona into the Bay. As she tentatively suggested that she didn’t have 16 in her at 12 mile there was no way in hell I had come this far to turn back. So as I ran out in front to let her focus on me and keep her going we got to the 3 mile to go point and turned for the trip back. With a comfortable sub 3 half which is my aim for every long training run.

I’ll admit I was beginning to faulter myself but the knowing the end was near and the elation that I hadn’t felt pain since the initial mile or 2 was keeping me going and keeping me positive. As we arrived back at the car park I had literally one lap to do to get the 16 mile mark. I also discovered that there was a mini round about at the bottom of the car park that I didn’t know about. 

Leg still attached and the usual post long run niggles I was relieved and delighted that we had made it. In the shadows of the Mourns Mountains we headed for Taras to meet the club ones who had all been out doing their own runs this morning including the London crew on their last long taper run before the big day. 

With a chilled glass of water, a pot of tea and a slice of this calorific goodness it was the perfect post run reward. 

So today I woke up and worried that there might be consquences. However no immediate pain and nothing more than what I already had in the background. So it seems it was a sign that that tyre on the bike wouldn’t blow up… I was meant to run. 

Long may it last 

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.” 

Cracking Craic at the Cracker

Cracking Craic at the Cracker

So the final race of 2016 took place on the 27th. After a few days of overindulgence it was only right that I should be joining over 1100 others who were feeling the same way about the recklessness of the Christmas period and ready to “punish” themselves with an approx. 8.5 mile of the best Castlewellan could offer.

I count myself very lucky to live where I do. I’m surrounded by many a mountain, hill, greenery and endless forest trail paths. Local club Newcastle AC where playing host to the Christmas Cracker which basically took in EVERYTHING the surrounding area had to offer. With the event selling out well in advance of Christmas with record numbers of entries all headed to Castlewellan to take on the unconfirmed route. We were definitely going to be in for a treat and a host of surprises.

The best of both road running and cross country that Northern Ireland had to offer where registered for the event. The only catch with the Cracker is that it is a paired event so it doesn’t matter how fast you can personally finish, if you don’t cross with your partner, tough shit! So the key is to run with someone of the same pace or be prepared to drop your pace to match them. So the person you have probably spent all year running to beat, soon becomes the person you rely on to get you over the line.

Now of course, I’m hardly “the best” that Northern Ireland has to offer unless its for craic whilst running, I’m your woman. So although there were many out to put in a strong performance, for most it was a bit of post Christmas craic, where you left the club vest at home and dressed up for the occasion in fancy dress and embraced the day as just sharing the fun and challenges together.

The Cracker was the first race I booked after DCM to give me a focus. Needless to say, the natural pairing of me with Caitriona was inevitable and her inability to tell me my ideas are pure mad, landed us both on the entry list. I honestly think she ignored exactly what the race involved and got more excited about getting dressed up for the occasion. Bottom line is, if you are going to be near the end, you might as well look like you made an effort. So against my better judgement and my hatred for dressing up, I agreed to tutus, hats, socks and embraced looking like a complete fool all on the promise that afterwards we could go out for the night. Fair deal!

So as we woke on the morning of the 27th, the sky was blue, it was fresh and the fear of the unknown hovered in the air. Getting dressed I really did panic that we’d be the only ones who dressed up and people know me here! After some gentle prompting from Selena and Caitriona and then realising that Micheal was making a slight effort, unannounced to run as Santa, I didn’t feel like such an idiot.

As Santa and his two MAC elves, headed up the Town. The amount of odd looks from passing cars could have easily caused an accident. However once I got up the town it was clear that the passers by must have thought the population of Castlewellan had totally lost their minds! There were Snowmen, Elves, Vikings, Cowboys and Donald Trump and some Mexicans to name but a few. In amongst this were the vest and short runners which to the non runner at the end of December is madder than those dressed up!

As we registered at the local GAA club, we picked up our numbers and mugs which lets face it will make tea taste so much sweeter. Soon we met more and more from the club, it seemed that this was a big Murlough AC day out as many of the club had come out to take part in all categories, some mixed pairs, ladies, men and transgender (not an official category but should be added for next year).

After the obligatory group photo, we headed off to the start line and we where soon on our way moving through the town. I had prepared myself for a climb of Slievenaslat so when I heard rumbles of complaints about the climb to the top of Drumee, I laughed. It wasn’t even a hill as such so couldn’t wait to hear what they had to say once we went into the park.

Billed as having road, forest trails, mud and a surprise, it first caught the city folk off guard as we turned to run down a field only half a mile in. This wasn’t the last time I was amused by those who had travelled down to “run in some muck.” To those of us who are used to chasing sheep and shifting cattle, the softness of field underfoot was welcomed.

Turning back to head into town, we kept smiles on our faces and were greeted by many a spectator. I did enjoy the fact that we wouldn’t move for a white van that was trying to push his way past us as we headed towards the bottom roundabout. I get that it must have been so frustrating for them trying to get somewhere and then being greeted by police holding up traffic to accommodate a pile of runners. But tough shit really is my view on that and as we turned to head up the exit of the Forest Park I did turn to wave at him to acknowledge his lack of patience.

As memories of Causeway Coast 16 soon flooded my head as we cut up the dirt track to Crow Road, the field of runners, not for the first time in the race was to come together as one by one we tried not to fall or slip. Familiar faces were about for some reminiscing and a good laugh. Running past the holy grail that is the lake, we were greeted by the hill to the Castle which I can only assume is the Castle that inspired the town name.

From here we went up and down and up again through the trails of the back hills. At 3 mile, we were impressed to be on point for half marathon pace and given the amount of hills we had encountered, both Caitiriona and I where very pleased with ourselves. However the familiar route of the back hills soon entered into the unknown as we passed the boundary wall and went into the “arse end of nowhere” or as known to many as heading towards Leitrim and this is when the real fun began. Negotiating fields which have seem to become inhabited by the “works of art” that appear for the Soma Festival each year, added laugher and a few scares to those who aren’t used to oversized fake animals in random places, with no valid reason.

With at least 1000 in front who had cut up the ground prior to our arrival it was tricky to find safe ground underfoot. Not one to worry about the trainers, or level of mud, I pushed on through as I watched 2 snowmen panic like the sun was going to melt them as they sunk further into the mud as they didn’t move quick enough. However at our next obstacle, it was comical to watch as everyone held on with bated breath trying to get down a rather steep hill which had mud rivers going down it quicker than the runners. It was here we met Lorriane and Caroline, who we were to spend the remaining few miles with as we continued to meet, tackle and conquer the “surprises” that the route organisers had in store for us.
Reaching 6 mile, I knew it was going to make or break me. After a few tough months post marathon, I feared the unknown beyond what I had ran. I had walked several times in the past month beyond the distance but I wasn’t sure what I had whilst running. As we came onto the Drumbuck Road, we had seemingly swapped partners briefly as I spent a mile or two running with Caroline and chatting about our aims for the coming year. The sun had began to drop in the sky and as we entered into the park, the thought of the end being near as very appealing.

There was one more little surprise left for us and although the finish line was in sight, we had to run the whole way around the god damn horse show field which wasn’t without a few wee inclines. I was however feeling strong, comfortable and content within myself and my wee legs. I had become quite attached to my green tutu and was smiling away. Having to gather the now “team” together, Caitriona and I, alongside new found running friends Lorraine and Caroline, pushed towards the finish line to come across it together to mark what was a tough, challenging and extremely fantastic run.

There is nothing I can fault about the whole event from start to finish, apart from missing out on soup as they had run out as it seems spectators and joe bloggs off the street had heard there was complementary soup and although I’m sure both the club and Newcastle AC had planned to cater for more than entered, they had under estimated the hunger and excitement that a bowl of soup could generate.

It was the best well attended prizegiving I have ever been at, though on scanning the room it was probably because a pint or 3 where available and everyone deserved a wee tipple for their hard work. I was delighted to see Michael Power and his sons take home the main category win for dressing up. I’m still laughing as I see more and more pictures of them appear.
Caitriona and I took home a bottle of wine each also for the effort made to dress up along with some other of the club members, you could say that although MAC didn’t win any of the running categories, we definitely owned the fancy dress, showing that yet again that Murlough AC fully embraces everything that there is on offer from running right down to being the best turned out club in Down. *my own opinion of course*

A quick shower and pizza and soon we were back out to toast how badass we were for completing and surviving the Cracker. I don’t think it was really necessary to be the last ones to leave the bar or not get home to after 2.30am, but I was celebrating, celebrating the realisation that I can still run, that I may have found my mojo again and that I was amongst those who have been by my side the whole way through what is without a doubt the most amazing year of achievements that I have ever had.

 Photo credit to Mal Mc Cann, Paul Fegan,  Colm McMullan and Liam Smyth

And some dodgy drunk snap chat pictures

You don’t have to always run

You don’t have to always run

Winding down from the marathon definitely has benefits you thought you’d never appreciate.

On one hand you seem to miss the challenges of the long run and being out doing monotonous laps of the lake, breaking milage milestones week in week out. However now post marathon you can enjoy a weekend morning knowing you don’t have to dedicate around 4 hours to training and have that bacon sandwich.

What I found out on Saturday ..I don’t have to always run to get out there and part take in events.  Today’s race saw team MAC descend upon Annalong. A fundraising event for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team.

Run4Rescue had an option for all athletes. Felt like you wanted a challenge there was the 10 mile race up to Dinnywater and back. Wanting to push your limits and get some solid miles there was the 10k. And of course for those who wanted to stretch the legs, on the injury bench or like me, just couldn’t be arsed running there was the 4 mile walk.

Of course MAC had someone in every race which strangely for a running club, the majority of the club representatives in the 4 mile walk category.
We set off around an absolutely fabulous route around Annalong and kept a relatively brisk pace along the shore and past the most quaint wee houses I’ve ever seen. 

It was fresh but with clear blue skies and the sun shining it was the perfect Saturday morning in November.  

John lead the way with 5 of the MAC ladies falling into line, Norah, Ann, Anne, Caitriona and myself. It was so lovely to walk along and chat about life in general. By around 3 mile the 10mile leader and winner was coming along. 

I remember the first time I was ever passed by William McKee. Born2Runs Kilborney 10k last January. My initial thought as he passed me while I was on my first lap and he was finishing was “who let him out with hardly any clothes on.” This was a thought that I had numerous times over the rest of the Winter Series when I saw him. And Saturday was no exception! Short shorts and his Mourne Runners vest. 

I have come to realise when you go as fast as him you don’t feel the cold I suppose. 

Anyway as the leaders came past us we cheered them on and reaching the top of that hill we waited to see the rest of the runners onto the flat, cheering on the Mad MACs Hugh and Judith who tackled the unforgiving 10 mile route.

Getting to the finish of our walk we arrived in time to cheer on the 10kers on their 2nd of 3 laps and see the 10 mile runners finish. 

After all the MAC crossed the line, we headed in for what can only be described as a phenomenal spread with soup, tea, cakes and sandwiches. Definitely a way to replace the calories burnt out on course. Making noted for next year to run at least the 10k as I need to burn more than a 4 mile dander worth of calories for those brownies!

And the bonus was…we got medals! So no need to run to earn the bling in this case. Could the day get any better!

That’s it! This time next week I’ll be a marathoner

That’s it! This time next week I’ll be a marathoner

Well it’s not the final run, it’s an end to any substantial miles.  With 1 week to go…shit just got ridiculously real.

This morning Michael and I got up and headed to the lake for a few laps. Full dress rehearsal so right down to the underwear I’ll have on. 

Boiled egg’s in a cup and a cuppa, trip to the loo and off we went. If only things would go so swimmingly next week I’d be onto a winner before I even start running.
I’ve spent so much time at the lake that I would feel like I was cheating if I ran anywhere else at this stage of training. So it was only right I do the last long run where I’ve broke all my own records over the past few months.

With 58 laps of the lake to my name since the start of this campaign what was a few more (61 completed now). I’ve seen the lake through every season this year and even now as the leaves fall, it takes on a whole new look and in a sense it’s like running somewhere new. 

Anyway some dynamic warm ups (as per homework set by Dermot #modelstudent) and off we went. I do appreciate any company on a run and I know how tough it is for a faster runner to run with me. Somehow though Michael seems to plod on and clock watches quietly without a mention.  He’s sneaky, he knows exactly what pace we are doing and will push me that bit more. 

I know I’m capable of faster for 3 or 4 laps of the lake. I’ve got so used to endurance running that the push to go even 10/15 seconds faster a km is a big ask, even though I know I’ve pulled up to a minute quicker per km out of the bag on 10ks last year over 6 mile. Lap 1 did see me PB on a lap of the lake, all procrastinating aside. Plus he is determined to push me after the marathon to break even those pbs.

Lap two I was feeling good and enjoying the run but I knew I was holding him back and maybe even hindering his training. Luckily in the distance was the world’s number 1 running buddy out walking and stretching out an injury.  

Now after all the laps of that lake Caitriona has done with me it would be mean to run past her, on the same stretch of Lake that I left her for dead at 9.5k in Castlewellan 10k (had to get that dig in), I told Michael to run on and I happily settled for a good power walk. 

It was refreshing and exactly what I needed. I’ve been an emotional bag of uselessness the past few days and it was great to throw my ideas for strategy and coping methods out there. Before we knew it we’d a lap done and minutes later Michael had finished his 4th lap.

So a tidy wee 5 mile for Caitriona,  7.5 for me and 10 mile for Michael. 

This time next week it’ll all be over and I should, all being well, be still alive. Don’t worry I’m well insured and have checked that I’m covered for marathon running (no joke) so at least you can all have a great party on me if I don’t make it! 

A sneaky 5k pb

So following my 14mile long run on Friday I welcomed my visitors on Friday evening. It was going to be a busy bank holiday weekend and obviously I was looking forward to getting a run out with Angela at a local 5k.

I’ll be honest, I did not expect to even be fit to rin on Saturday but I woke able to walk, so obviously I could run.

So I put on my Murlough gear, pulled the hair back and laced up the trainers for the Shore to Shore 5k race in Newcastle for Cancer Research UK.

With a few fun Zumba warm ups the race was underway. It was more of a fun run and a field of about 80 took to the promenade. A mixture of runners, walkers, buggy pushers and kids. 

Caitriona had taken her nephew Oisin with her for his first race ever so we weren’t technically cheating on eachother, as I’d Angela with me. 


The weather couldnt have been more perfect. A beautiful sunny afternoon with a nice breeze.  The route was scenic and quite flat. We set off at a nice pace and kept quite steady through the first half of the race. I’d hoped to keep a 12/12.30 min/mile as I didn’t want my legs to give out. However my legs had other ideas and wouldn’t slow down. 

There’s a lot that can be said about running with other people. It does keep you going and with the promenade being so busy it was nice saying hello to everyone as we passed them.

As we neared the end of the race I spotted our finish line and Angela informed me we were at 30mins. It was a kick in the ass moment and a pb was in sight. I kept at the same pace and even at that we came across the line at 32.14 more than a minute off my 5k pb. 

I was absolutely delighted. Never knew I had that in me after what was a horrible long run the day before and should have been a recovery run. 

But I’m not complaining and happy to take that and take a break from races until Causeway coast on the 24th September. 


 

An open letter to my friend Moira

It was only a little over 6 weeks ago I picked you up for your first session of c25k.

You were determined to prove everyone wrong and silence the laughs and snigger you got when you had informed them that you where going to join a running club. 

I’ll never forget your first night as it lashed the last 10 minutes of the run and in all my very positive and probably annonying attitude I told you running in the rain was the best…I’m not sure if you ever got that feeling but I’m pretty sure running in the rain is something that doesn’t phase you now. 

Each week we upped the training and I’m sure you never called me Siobhan once however I’m sure the French dictonary was filled with what you where calling me . 🙈

Thing is Moira,as the number of new recruits dropped as the sessions got tougher…you still came out and cursed me up and down. You didn’t even let me having a few weeks off due to my operation put you off and your drive to want to run even got Michael up off his ass to go to training with you.  That is no easy task..believe me! 

You had spoken about Sea 2 Sky and actually part taking in it. I’ll be honest I thought to myself she’s mad to do this. As far as tough races come…Sea2Sky is up there. Even worse than Tollymore that was my first race. However I knew you would be capable of it and I wouldn’t deter you from earning that medal..afterall it was a pretty medal which also doubled as a bottle opener. 

We spoke on race day and I assured you that all the pre race feelings of feeling sick and wondering what the hell you where getting yourself into where normal. You turned up at the house a few shades lighter than usual and I felt sick for you. But you where there and ready to take it all on. Fair plays!

It was a pretty overwhelming experience as we arrived to pick up our race packs and we got you kitted out with a Murlough team vest and tried to break the pre race nerves with a few lighthearted conversations. A team photo made you go into panic mode as you realised you’d more than likely end up in the Mourne Observer this week for everyone to see you. 

We set off together and you lost your hat not even a half a km into the race but it was picked up and handed to you and it made it the whole way round the course. 

I knew exactly what was going through your head.  Gosh it still goes through my head every race…why am I doing this, omg I’ve another 9 of these kms to go, I’m going to kill her, not another hill, does this ever end, I swear to god I’m going to kill her, oh look a down hill, I’ve been running forever, what was I thinking listening to her she’s a liar, ah I know where I am, must be near the end, wait til I get my hands on her, I think I might die, oh wait there’s the finish line,ah jesus she’s come back to run with me and I don’t have the energy to kill her followed by you crossing the line and realising that you made it. Water,medal and gathering your thoughts. 

Moira I’ve been proud of my own kids, hundreds of past students doing their A levels and Gcses, I’ve even been proud of my own running achievements but I put you crossing that line up there with my proudest moments. 

I know you wanted to kill me but you have just in a matter of 6 weeks went from nothing to running 10k…that’s over 6 miles!!! Your pure grit and determination to make it around that race and finish shows that you are one tough cookie and a complete superstar. 

Be proud and embrace how sore you might feel. I promise the more you do it the easier it gets…but it never gets easy if you know what I mean. Just more manageable. 

I hope anyone who thought you joining Murlough was funny or a ridiculous idea are eating their words. You have showed that not only have you smashed the c25k training..you’ve doubled the distance! 

So the big question now is…when’s your next race?