Category: Pure Running Half Marathon Series

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Marathon training does take over your life and not essentially in a bad way. However I learnt a few lessons after DCM. 1. Don’t race too soon after a marathon and 2. Don’t leave too long until your next race.

Doing Minnowburn 10k 6 days after DCM near killed me but the post marathon blues set in afterwards as it took 6 weeks to race again at Kilbroney and then the Cracker, where I found my love of running lay beyond 6miles. So this time round I agreed with myself on a happy medium. 3 weeks. Ok I did throw in the Mourne Walking Festival but that’s not really running, more extensive 3 days hill training. Ards fell lovely just short of 4 weeks after Derry. I had felt great post Derry physically, mentally I was still beating myself up.  So Ards was my come back. I had done enough training but no where near what I was doing in the run up to Derry, though I think my body thanked me for that.

I had cleared my head of cobwebs, lingering worries and concerns that where weighing me down whilst up the mountains and I was feeling fresh as the end of term set in and I was ready to run, for me.

I have to admit I love how this year has panned out for me with running. Training with Brenda for London and seeing her through all her milestones, then straight into tagging Derry training onto the end of that with Caitriona as she hit the same milestones and embraced 8 laps of the lake. And of course being privileged and honoured to run Derry with Tony being able to carry out the promise I made in October. In amongst that I had completed my LiRF course, guide running course, trained the school cross country team to gain a 1st place and shortlisted as the Ulster Representative as 1 of  the countries 5 most inspirational runners. It’s been a hell of a 6 months.

So Ards was technically the first race of the year I was running, for me. No one else was relying on me and that quite frankly scared the shit out of me!

Ok I had talked Caitriona and Brenda into the race as well as Jennifer so I wasn’t alone and obviously signed Michael up for good measure. As with all running events there was a plethora of runners and supporters who I’ve come to know over the past 2 years who where there also.

I procrastinated something shocking on the start line. I never really get the reality until the field starts moving and then its like ” holy crap I’ve 13.1 mile to find!” So all you really can do is put one foot in front of the other, a lot of times.

It was also the first time I choose to not run club colours after deciding to step back from club running for a while. So here I was at the start of what was billed as an undulating course, setting off with a whole new way about me.

I settled into the race fine. It was a strong start but I knew there were hills ahead and I wanted to make the most of the flats whilst I could. At mile 2 the hills started. As we climbed towards Scrabbo Tower, the town below got smaller and the views over the countryside widened. Normally this would be my worst nightmare but from the word go, the marshals out on course where so supportive, encouraging and quite frankly, everywhere!

At the first water stop I was greeted by the legend herself Rosy Ryan out selflessly on the eve of her 100th parkrun lending a hand and of course a much needed hug. This set me off into mile 4 and the headwind that whistled over the hills was proving to be a bit more challenging than I had expected. I played cat and mouse with Caitriona and Brenda at this stage but as we began to come off the hills around 6 mile, I found my happy place.

My body and mind had found comfort in the miles and as we came towards the half way mark, I pulled a bit further away from the girls. I hit the half way point at 1.20. I knew in my head that Alan Johnson was about to finish in the same way that he had finished in Derry when I had reached the half way point. And on finishing, I was spot on. 18th place in 1.20.

Though as I gained ground on the runners in front, I knew this was where the months of long miles would pay off, after all during a LSR 8 mile was only half way and you where only really getting stuck in. The support and encouragement from everyone was phenomenal. Residents in Comber stayed out to cheer on the back runners, this is something that I can’t praise enough. Usually they stay for the fast runners and as the field thins out they go back inside, however this wasn’t the case as kids lined the streets with jelly babies and marshals and supporters shouted encouraging things. There has been only 1 or 2 events to rival this in my opinion.

Onto the carriage way I went and set my sighted on Tony in front, him and Becki where about 500m in front and I had so hoped my wee legs would get to him, however I had another person inbetween to catch first, as I turned the corner onto Ards’ own heartbreak hill, I’d caught the fella in front but Tony and Becki where out of my reach. Together we motored up the hill but I could sense a body not far behind me – Brenda. We had merged in with the walkers at this point and as we passed the water stop, Brenda caught me and cursed the sight of my ponytail which she had been chasing for 5 mile. I was glad to see her. I had spent most the race on my own and although you can keep going for 2 more miles, its always better when you have a friend beside you.
As we entered into the final mile and my legs turned to concrete coming off the hill onto the final flat into Newtownards, we knew a good time was within reach. Doing our usual “at most its a 15minute mile” we pushed on and as we turned the corner to see the finishing arch, 2.43 had just turned on the clock.  A PB for Brenda and a 2017 best for me, both outdoing our joint effort at Dune in February of 2.45 dead. Caitriona wasn’t far behind us and that was us all home safe.

Only 50 seconds off my all time PB, in a race I knew was physically tough. It was just what I needed. The demons that haunted me after Derry disappeared and I proved to myself I did have it all along, I had just had a bad day on June 4th.

I was delighted to see everyone had made it alive, some in not so great shape others lapping up the awesome donuts and Suki orange juice post race. Based on the exemplary attention to detail of the marshals and their guidance I will be coming back next year to Ards Half. Yes its a tough course and its anything but flat, however it is priceless to be treated exactly the same as every runner on the course from front runner to back runner. Equality across the whole field, inclusion allowing everyone an opportunity to take part and respect, many of the marshals out on course where runners themselves and not one negative comment the whole way round. Yes I was in the last 50 finishers but I felt valued and supported throughout and that is something every event needs to strive to achieve whether its 5k/10/half/full/ultra.

So July sees me on bridesmaid duties, working towards my 10k time and then launching into August with Rock N Roll Weekend and of course the EAMs Knockagh Challenge where I’m pairing up with Tony again for some uphill and downhill fun. 

Don’t forget to vote for me as the Ulster Representative in the Rock’n’Fun Idol competition as one of the countries most “inspirational” runners. Would quite fancy a trip to Vegas to represent the country and I am sure I definitely need a holiday.
  http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

 

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I’m not “Dune” yet

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

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

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

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The T-shirt was epic, just like the race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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