Category: friendship

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. 

 

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The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

So here it is… the round up of another marathon training phase.

Finishing Derry as deflated as I did, I was still able to look at it and say well I did xyz wrong and was only 7 minutes behind where I was in Dublin (and I’d just basically walked 13 mile) so knew I had so much more to give.

I set my sights firmly on DCM17 and knew what I had to do. The thing is come the end of June I was unwillingly forced to assess my position as a member within MAC. A club that I had devoted my last year to, spent hours weekly happily putting together race reports, travelling to support races quite literally climbing mountains to cheer; I was proud to be a part of the club.

I took the decision to remove myself from the social aspect of the club and just be a paid member on the books. Life is too short to have individuals try to cloud your life and I took to the roads to remember why I ran in the first place. And it was there I found me again. Much to the joy of some family and friends who had seen how things had taken it’s toll on me.

I didn’t think twice the next week about signing up to tackling Knockagh Ultra. I felt I had to push myself to the brink of blowing up. And with the miles still in the legs from Derry I’d a point to prove to myself.

I arrived at Ards with the girls in the Little Miss vests that Caitriona had bought us all as a present for completing Derry. I put a strong performance in and got to see Brenda over the line for her to gain a half PB. Somehow now I’m known by the vest at races. Wonder why ūü§Ēūü§Ēūü§Ē

10k pb followed for myself at the Mini Marathon. Taking 3 minutes of my time on the same course the previous year. 

A mad weekend in Dublin for Rock n Roll with the girl’s gave me a severe hangover but also a half PB… improvement was already visable.

I took on Knockagh with Tony and we had a blast. I flirted with death at mile 28 but we got there and gained Ultra Status – at the point in marathon training when I should have just been pushing past 13 mile.

So there was no question that I could manage 26.2 mile now. 

Whilst discussing Knockagh with Dermot one day, I had asked if he could take a look at my plan for DCM. I had the thoughts of Derry consuming me, I had the fact I could run an ultra sitting there so it was time for me to pick up pace and focus for what I wanted. And really there was no one else I knew who would be able to point me in the right direction.

With 9 weeks to get my act in gear Dermot offered to coach me. I won’t lie.  I was filled with dread. I see the man daily on Strava and the sessions he puts in. I’ve flirted with death in his interval sessions and although it was a take or leave option. Something inside me wanted the challenge. I had to be accountable to someone for what I did and to do it right. So with fear in my eyes I accepted the offer and training began full steam ahead the week after Knockagh.

Every Friday my phone would bing with the next week’s schedule. Each day I’d to report back on my session and I had to leave not only the lake behind but the girls. I’d to spend a few weeks finding my pace and the head space. It was tough going those first few weeks. I’ve never clocked so many miles. But each session reflected on different aspects of my running and my confidence grew week on week, as well as my need to nap everyday.

As the miles got longer I was allowed to bring back in support on the weekly long runs even if it was just for a handful of miles. Laura Jane joined the 7am Saturday morning long runs and over the weeks built herself up to half distance from 10k. Jennifer also made some early morning starts to help her training for the back2back at Monaghan. 

I was clocking 40+ miles a week and I could feel my fitness improve in all runs. I have to admit my favourite run every week was my mid week endurance run. 8 mile at race pace. I was joined by Theresa and Sarah for a few of these and that allowed me to up the pace alongside stronger runners. It was a run that always went well. Regardless if the previous runs that week went to pot. Thursday always set me up with drive for Saturday’s run.

Annaghmore 18miler was the perfect oppertunity to give pace and race day a bash. I loved every minute of the day but training had begun to take a it toll on me and had to take a few days off afterwards to recover. 

The last month has been up and down. Though I’ve had to rein it in towards the end. I know I am capable of doing what I want, if everything falls into place on the day. Though I have experience of things going pear shaped and I won’t be toeing the start line in the shape I want to be.

But a marathon is what it is. Marathon training is a bitch and in the words of Dermot -I’ve to just suck it up. I’ve made peace with myself and all I can do is go out and run. Right, left, right, left. 

My emotions are all in tact and nerves are no where to be seen. But I’ll tell you this?after an ultra and 3 marathons in a year. I’m taking a break after this carry on. I am only human and what I’ve achieved this year is beyond my wildest imagination. I never saw the past year panning out like it has.

Thank you to everyone along the way who has supported me, near and far, cheered me on, held my hand and offered hugs. Those who daily dealt with my post run selfies and pre run procrastination. Those who put in the miles with me in training and in races.  Those who watch on over the computer and like a post. 

And of course good luck to everyone in the running community who will rock up on Sunday in Dublin and knock out the last 26.2 miles on the training schedule.

  Let’s do this -these 2 are looking new medals for the collection

Home straight now

Home straight now

So we are now able to look at this marathon in real time ( I sound like the Keifer Sutherland voiceover in 24). 2 weeks from now it’ll be all done and dusted and I’ll be resting up wondering what’s next on the hit list. I’ve planned a relatively quiet November running wise. Recover from DCM and I’ve Run in the Dark 10k mid November and nothing booked until the EAMS back2back Half Marathons to round the year off in amongst the best running friends.
So a higglity pigglity week for me as I had to play with the schedule to fit other plans and the fact I kick started the week with a migraine from hell.

Day 1: Return to Monday Groups with The Running Coaches

I had spent all day in bed with a migraine that decided to take hold in the middle of the night. Having reached out for the hard core solution to making the pain go away I was left with a massive migraine hangover where my whole body was drained. However it was week 1 of groups again and I was looking forward to getting stuck back into the sessions this time with a few friends joining to regain their running legs.

Had an absolute blast of a session and definitely by far my favourite first session ever. I followed it up with an easy 5k with Caitriona round Newcastle and rounded off the night with the cool down with the then ruined progressives after a tough interval session. 

One thing that I did notice about Monday night was the increase in traffic using the promenade. Which is expected at this time of year as the nights draw in, it’s the safest place to run locally. Yet I was more taken by the blatant rudeness and ignorance of some runners pushing past not only me but other out walking and running. This isn’t running ettiqute and for once I found the traffic on the streets surrounding Newcastle more couteous. I hope this was a once of as I’d hate that runners would get a bad name all because of a handful of ill mannered people. Remember people a little bit of manners goes  a long way.

Day 2: Tempo Day wasn’t meant to be

Yeah really shouldn’t have run the night before with a body hanging together.  As by mile 2 I knew a tempo run wasn’t going to happen so was planning to do just the 6 mile. Yeah that wasn’t going to happen either. I got to just over 3.5 mile and ended up in the public toilets throwing my guts up. 

No sympathy was required, I’d brought it on myself so called it a day.

Day 3: Wednesday with the girls

I’d hoped to tackle a tempo run after a failed attempt the previous day. However I knew that just keeping pace with them would give me a strong and solid run. I needed it something shocking as I had had a few things playing on my mind all week and I needed to run it out. Seems like we were all on the same boat and it was a well enjoyed trot round Newcastle 

Day 4 : I rested as long run was brought forward a day to Friday so wanted my legs to be fresh enough for the occasion as it seemed I had company of the not understanding kind. The last long distance run Michael and I done together was my 20 miler for DCM16 when he stuck with me for 12 mile before cutting his run short. We barely spoke the whole time and he spent most of it running 20m in front of me. So I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out.

Day 5 : Long Run Day

We set out just before 10 with 16 on our minds. I’ve always said that when you run those 2/3 minutes/mile faster than someone it is hard work to run the slower pace over longer miles. Which I was sure would take its toll on Michael at some point. 

It was again a quiet run. Strangely I was just focusing on keeping pace steady as I know I can easily get carried away when running with others. Also it was SO warm. 

The impending hurricane has brought with it unreasonable temperatures and the sweat was lashing off me. We even rerouted to include extra water stops. At 12 mile Michael called it a day on running with me and headed off into the distance at his own pace and was hoping to pit a few mile more in. As for me, I kept on at my slow and steady pace making good time on my half and final 3 mile. 

As I finished off the last 0.1 of the run and was walking back to the car I spotted Michael. A lot sooner than I had planned. After increasing the speed after running so long with me and that sucking all the energy out him he had made it to 15 mile and didn’t have much left. Managing to even grab himself a lift back to the car. 

Pace was where I want it to be and my leg is holding up well. Its definitely a problem in my hip but plenty of stretching is easing it so as long as I keep moving for the next 2 weeks. I’ll be ok.
Day 6 : Rested the legs as they were a bit delicate but promised myself I would run Sunday. I did take the kids up to parkrun to cheer everyone on. Though they had more fun digging the already ruined track up.

Day 7 : The kids has been granny napped and away off to mass so we took the opportunity to get at least an hour in roubd the lake.

Michael had learnt his lesson from Friday and after 300m ran on down the avenue. We had agreed to go opposite ways round the lake knowing I could match 3 laps by him with 2 of mine so this was a handy way to keep track of eachother.

In fairness everyone was lovely on the lake on Sunday, smiling and saying hello…except him! When I met him on the hill at the back of the lake he couldn’t even manage a hello and he was on the downhill and I was going up! 

By the time I was half mile from the end of the lake he had come back round and knew that his 3rd lap wasn’t going to happen. So at exactly 2.5mile for me I was happy to turn back on myself and run with him. I hit 5 mile on the hour and was happy with that.

So now the shit is getting really real. I’ve been strangely gathered over the whole maranoia thing. I know in myself that I have trained hard. I’ve trained well enough to get what I want but I haven’t left myself much room for error. 

We all know race day can go either way. I might surprise myself, I might also blow up like I did at Derry. Yet my main aim is always to arrive alive at the finish line with a smile. Blowing my time from last year out of the water… bonus! 

Cotton wool time lads.

Is that something that resembles a taper?

Is that something that resembles a taper?

Holy crap…taper… can’t be time for that yet?

Well many do think that training eases off around taper and you can relax…can you f**k! Still loads of work to be done and a small decrease on the endurance run of a whole 4 mile! I’m grateful for small mercies, even if it is a whole miserable 4 mile across the whole week.

This week the fact I am human hit me like a tonne of bricks. I have been running relying on sensible management of pain in my right leg but it was grinding on me and after Mondays 4 miler I was swiftly put on the rest bench by Dermot for 2 solid days rest. 

Rest? What the hell is that? On asking what am I meant to do he actually expected me to rest and do nothing. So 2 days of ice, rest and stretching was a foot. 

I did wonder had I over done it at Annaghmore. But on reflection I didn’t push myself too much, yes it was a tough course but what I gained from it in confidence outweighed the effect it had on my body. I honestly just think my right leg which hasn’t been right since before Knockagh in August was reminding me that I need to give it a break. 

Thankfully I’d to work Wednesday and took the girls for intervals on Wednesday evening so wasn’t going totally mad. 

Thursday I returned to the roads. My usual 8 mile mid week endurance run was cut to 4-6 mile to see how I faired. I had my eyes set firmly on Saturdays long run and this was just for me to gauge how I was holding up. So painkiller less and leaving the deep heat and magnesium spray at home I laced up the shoes and off I went up the Dundrum Road-again. 

I purposely went slower than normal and against directions of not to over think- I spent the whole first 3 mile analysing every tweak in every muscle and tore my form apart. It wasn’t a great run for my head but by the turn at mile 3 I had caught myself on and shouted at myself. Funny enough after that everything relaxed and the final 3 mile was grand.

I went to see Grainne again afterwards and although the right leg was in better shape than last week there was still work to be done including some dry needling on my hamstring which as always is like a magical cure and after I didn’t throw up all over the place my hamstring was good to go.

Friday was rest day and I did rest. Focusing on hydrating and what I was eating. 20-22 was on the schedule and it was already playing on my mind. I wasn’t going to be alone. I’d Jennifer coming along to test her legs after a phenomenal weekend of running at the Monaghan Back2Back marathons the previous weekend. And my new running conscience, Laura Jane, joining me for a good portion of the miles.
An early night had me up at 6am for the usual eggs in a cup and off to the 12 arches. It was really dark! Glad I’d told the girls to take the headtorches as even the birds weren’t up.

And bang on time we hit the road at 7am, head torches on and many miles to be covered. 

It was good after last week’s run at Annaghmore where I spent 17 of the 18 mile on my own to have company. We got to hear all about the 2 marathons in Monaghan, Laura Janes first tackle at 13.1 in a few years as she owned over 5 laps of the lake and the highlights and lowlights of my race last week. 

With 6 mile done, Jennifer called it a day. To be honest she isn’t wise… who gets up at ridiculous o clock to come run with me? Most normal people would still be in bed at that stage and she’d a run done and all. 

So a quick refuel and off Laura Jane and I went for what we hoped to be another 8. As always after 6 mile I settled into the run knowing Id started  and i would finish. Got an unexpected hug from Joe out getting another long run into the legs for DCM. 

As per normal the wind had begun to pick up and I pulled on the golden line to heaven to make my last 6 mile wind free. Laura Jane kept me grounded and had been over all I had to think about in the last 6 mile on my own. Had checked a million times how my leg was and reminded me to refuel and to just get to 17 and it’s all easy enough back. 

I have to admit I have been blown away by how well She has come on and embraced running, particularly over the past 2 months. Bet she wishes she never met me that evening at the lake when I said…come on do intervals with me next week. Joining in with the progressives has seen her confidence grow alongside the mileage she clocks up weekly. 

Invaluable support on my long runs and pushing herself to new distances which not only helps her but makes such a difference to my run. With her first half marathon booked for the day before DCM we can taper together.

So at 14 mile I was on my own to see through the last 6 miles. I’ll admit. I was already defeated before I was on my own. These 6 mile where going to be the death of me. After such a challenging week with being on the bench and mentally struggling. It wasn’t going to be pretty but I was going to make it to 20.

Mile 16 is when the head staggers got me. I was so over running as my watch just wouldn’t seem to show me going as fast as I wanted to be. No matter how much I chanted to myself or drove forward I just wasn’t getting anywhere. On reflection the pace wasn’t woeful actually it was dead on but the battle in my head had convinced me otherwise.

By 18 mile I was back on and on the home straight home. Finishing a few minutes on front of where I had hoped to be. 

I now know that on a bad day I have to find my last 10k (After 32k previous to that) in 1hr20 to make aim. No pressure. I’m 30mins ahead of where I was this time last year for my DCM16 long run and that’s a HUGE improvement. 

With 3 weeks to go I know that my mid week runs are to become invaluable yet I need to let go of my obsession with my pace. I’ve to get to DCM17 in 1 piece and fit. I’ve never trained for a time before and that unnerves me a bit. 

So the long awaited taper… less than 3 weeks to go.

What you doing today…running, I’m always running

What you doing today…running, I’m always running

I’m still going 

With the absence of the requested scheduled naps on the plan… I’ve ditched them for going to bed earlier. Which seems to be working.

I knew there was 40+ miles on the plan this week afterall this week was the start of endurance weeks and although grateful for minimal speed work and lung busting sessions. Lots of miles where to be covered. 

Day 1: 

Back on it with a lovely 4 mile round Murlough with Mic√©al who was in need of a recovery run after his long run last weekend so didn’t mind slowing and meeting my pace as we went through a multi terrain route dodging rabbit holes and over the sand. 

However a morning run meant that I had to do it all again in the evening at The Running Coaches beginners graduation. 3 strong mile with the beginners on Monday as they completed their first non stop 5 k was a great way to end of what was a lovely beginners group who had worked hard over the past 6 weeks.

Day 2

Speed work got dumped this Tuesday for a 6 mile run. It must be a Tuesday thing for me to have a crap run. I made it but it wasn’t pretty or enjoyable. Also got told off for over thinking every run. Guess having what is essentially high functioning anixety will drive me to mental break down before the actual marathon. Get the hard hat on coach… My maranoia will be tough to handle come the middle of October.

Day 3

I opted for the shorter run today as legs where hanging in there. With a mini fartlek session in the middle of the run I took note of my telling off and decided to not think about the run and just tick it off as done.

Day 4

Mid week endurance at marathon pace.

That run again…8 mile. Last week’s this run was the highlight of my week and this week it didn’t disappoint either. 

Joined by Theresa at the start of mile 3 it was lovely to have company and especially company of a runner who you have watched come through the ranks of The Running Coaches beginners and progressive to become a fantastic runner. It was the perfect morning for a run and the time flew in. So much so that I forgot to watch pace and clocked 11.45 min/miles over the 8 miles. 45sec a mile quicker than marathon pace. I wasn’t busted and was really comfortable. Best run of the week and definitely up there with the best run in the whole plan so far.

Day 5

Ah Rest Day. I’d been to see Grainne for my overdue rub down on Thursday and my right quad still feeling a bit tender, loved the rest. Good to know all muscles are in good order given the intensity of the training. 

I did get to thinking about a comment regarding me not being as excited about this marathon. It’s been a mental year of miles. Dcm16 was my first, Derry offered challenges of Its own as I was guiding. Knockagh Ultra was just a bat shit crazy idea and now dcm17. 

It’s not that I’m not excited about it. I can’t wait for it. However it’s my race. As in no one is relying on me and no pressure of it being my first. I’ve proven I can do 26.2 mile and beyond. Only person this race matters to is me. I’m the source of the pressure, I want to do my best and that doesn’t give me my usual – lets go out for the craic and do it vibe as I know how easily all the training can fall apart on race day. 

Again the analogy of all your eggs in 1 basket on race day and I may crack the whole lot like I did at Derry. Though if I’m well trained and practised it should be a great run, with some craic and a fab session at the pub after! 

Day 6: Long Run Day 18 mile


Another Saturday I sit in the 12 Arches at 7am wondering why I do this to myself. Again joined by the ever improving Laura Jane we set off. It was a mild morning but clouds did begin to engulf the mountains at the end of the first 6 mile. She was planning to go to 10 mile this week however when we reached the turning point that would give her 10 mile, Laura Jane casually said; sure let’s go to 12. 

Once again I had appealed to the crazy in Laura Jane which she is very aware of how easily happens after meeting her at a Sling meet and teaching her the skills of babywearing and cloth nappies. Resulting in her training also to become a consultant. I always said to her that I open doors but she chooses to go through the doors. And here she was about to own the double figures.

From mile 10 the wind began to pick up but pace was steady and still comfortable. Reaching 12 mile I was absolutely estatic to see LJ finish her run- still in one piece and buzzing from what she had just achieved. With a 12.22 min/mile average I couldn’t complain. 3 weeks ago she hasn’t ventured past 10k. So proud of her and also grateful for the company for my first 12 mile.

That did mean I’d 6 mile to do on my own. Well I wasn’t… ok it wasn’t in human form but the wind that didn’t exist at 7am had appeared and boy did it kill my mojo. As a battle it pushing at me from the side and head on I kept thinking about how I missed the shelter of the lake. 

After a few choice words at Stephen and Darren as they passed me with the wind at their backs (lucky friggers) at mile 17. I knew it was only one more mile. It was first class resistance training as I refused to let the wind beat me.

On reaching 18 mile and the clock showing 12.35min/mile over the 18 mile I knew the wind had hit me hard and although it could be windy on race day, it definitely wouldn’t be a coastal wind in Dublin City Centre.  

I felt exhausted after but that was definitely more the wind. Legs felt fine though however it was the worst post run shower ever. Guess that’s a sign that a new sports bra is required. So another is on route so hopefully normal service can resume again. Chaffing is something I’ve never had issues with so definitely was more clothing related than a bad relationship with Vaseline ūüôą

Day 7; she rested and  instead sent Michael out for his long run.

Hooking up with Joe and a few from Murlough AC between them a lot of miles where clocked up and I tell you this… if I came home from a long run and lay dead on the floor, I wouldn’t get away with it! 

So another week ahead however this time I’m working towards an 18 mile race at Annaghmore on Saturday. I hear there’s a few hills but in that part of the country you wouldn’t expect anything less! This will be the real test of where I really am and give me the perfect oppertunity to trial pre race and in race fuelling. As well as continue to freak out about everything. 

5 weeks to go…

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 Mic√©al out on Joes Journeys. 1- I was glad to see Mic√©al 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.

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.”