Tag: exercise

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 đŸ€”đŸ€”đŸ€”

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

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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.

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting off to the start line

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

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

Aye the biggest understatement of the day

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

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

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

 For the record Caroline took this picture of the Orchard

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

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

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

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

Highlight of the race… Mile 15

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

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

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

Yay for a run that we all were happy with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 MicĂ©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 🙈

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 RĂłnĂĄn 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 MicĂ©al out on Joes Journeys. 1- I was glad to see MicĂ©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.

8 weeks to go…

8 weeks to go…

So here I am 2 weeks after conquering Knockagh and becoming an Ultra runner. Feels like a million years ago but it’ll never be taken away from me.

However no time to dwell. 1 week off where I managed a recovery run and a 5k and it was back to business for DCM17. 

Last Monday saw me take on a training plan that isn’t going to be easy. It is going to require huge commitment and quite frankly scares the crap out of me.

Of course there was only 1 person who could be behind something so scarey… the wise man himself.

Although I do run for the craic predominantly, I do have personal goals and DCM last year was to prove I could do it. But a year has passed and something in me wants to aim for a time. So with the 5.30 dream in my mind there was no one else I would turn to, to help get me as close to that as possible.

I’ve watched over the past year or so how Dermot and the guys at The Running Coaches have helped support others achieve their dreams and pbs. Also I think it’s honestly more of a challenge for Dermot than for me to work together on this. Also I know I’m luckily that he was willing to add me to his already busy client base.

But he knows what level of crazy and emotionally bi polar madness he’s taking on and after some negotiation of terms where I clearly lost on every point. I decided I’d give it a shot for the next 9 weeks. 

But you should have seen my face when the first weeks plan arrived. I near died.

5 days structured training, 1 day rest and another day active recovery.  Feck sake I only want a 5.30 marathon- not to become Mo farah! Apart from 1 particular comment on a very individually tailored plan which was in my language, including ‘go for a wee walk’ it said ‘stay away from the lake.’

I broke out into sweat. Where the hell was I to go for my long run? He’s doing this on purpose (obviously). The girls did laugh. I was going to end up lost!

Ack let’s be honest there’s plenty of places to run round here but when you are comfortable with something you don’t like change. And I wasn’t the only one who found the change unnerving.

Day 1: Getting back out again for a few mile. Didn’t go anticlockwise round the lake. I did take note that I had to “mixed it up” a little so I took to Crow Road and came onto the lake – clockwise! See small steps.

Yeah my Garmin didn’t know what to think. It had me going right through the lake. Either it’s a sign that I should be doing a triathalon OR I am biblical OR that it just couldn’t cope with change.

Day 2: Bagged myself a 5k PB. Yeah that wasn’t the plan but I was slightly broken and my legs wouldn’t do what I told it. Disappointed with myself that I could so massively feck up a simple instruction. But taking over 2 minutes off my 5k pb shouldn’t be overlooked. But I was to suffer later in the week.

Day 3: Active recovery went swimming with the kids in Lisburn and then a nice wee walk marking out the route for the girls progressive training at Wednesday night hell. And enjoyed shouting at them and watching them work hard. 

Day 4: love me Tempo Thursday. In my bid to avoid a repeat of Tuesday I found pacing myself went the opposite way initally but found myself again and not a bad session.

Day 5: Rest day! Went shopping and exercised the credit card. Got lovely trousers in Monsoon. Can’t beat good quality! And did the washing . 

Day 6: Long Run Day- 12 mile

Glorious morning and took myself to the 12 Arches at Murlough at 7am. Sun was just coming up and ran 3 mile out and back, twice along the main road to Mountpanther and back. Refuel at car and off I went again.

What a run. After warm up hit the ground running perfectly. Pace kicked in naturally and I was comfortable and relaxed. The clear skies and looking over the Bay was relaxing and calming. On the way back I ran towards the crystal clear and could have been mistaken for drawn on mountains. It was picture perfect. 

At 10 mile I did consider picking the pace up but I was delighted in how the run had gone and that I was yet to stop for a walk break minus the 6 mile refuel at the car, I tooted on. 

Hardest part of the run was stopping. I purposely marked the route for 12 mile dead as I’d have been tempted to run for the half. It killed me stopping at 12 as I knew I’d have had a 2nd fastest half in the bag easily and maybe even a half pb if I pushed hard. But the plan said 12 and I was for once going to do what I was told.

Day 7: Recovery Run.

Took the long suffering cripple of a husband out for his first run in a few months. He motored on masking if there was any pain or not. I swear I hadnt had a vodka and diet coke about 30mins before I decided to run but when the kids are kidnapped by granny randomly-you’ve got to make the most of it! So off we went  (until that point, I did forget that I had to run)

So many lessons learnt this week. But the main one was simply that I can stick to a plan. It was tough but not designed to be above what I’m capable of. Realistic-  yes my mid week miles have gone up significantly but the wise man knows what I am capable of and pitched it spot on. Suppose that’s how he gets results…he knows his shit lol

So heres to another week and week 2 plan in hand with a few more wee tweaks to push me that bit more and a 15miler as my long run.

I suppose the only thing I know that I’ve got at the moment is that the miles are in the legs. It’s how I make the most of my legs to put in better miles and get that goal.

8 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.

 

 

When you know the “beginners” are already faster than you.

Endurance.

 The only skill I have on my side. As the 3rd session of The Running Coaches does Newcastle came to a close.

Work on endurance first and then focus on speed and distance, Dermot says. Hmm I thought to myself, OK they may all be faster than me but I know I’d be the last one running if it was who the last one to give up was. 

Tonight the group was pushed to hit the 5k mark, they actually went beyond that mark. It’s so clear how strong the group is and they were more than capable than running the distance with the short breaks in between. Definite talent and hopefully faces that I’ll see in the future more often.

However when I looked down and looked at the time I actually felt really shit. OK I was buzzing for the group. It was a fantastic achievement for them and I was really proud of them all. Yet inside I got a wake up call. 3.2 mile in 40minutes. Running, walking and talking and I was able to get that time with the group messing about. But why so sad…well my Kilbroney Park Run was just over a minute faster than this and I did sort of try at that.

Like seriously.  It’s embarrassing. OK my time trial on similar terrain is 33 minutes and I should essentially be focused on that but although I can seemingly run forever I still should be better.

So although tonight was a magnificent achievement for the group it’s opened my eyes to my own running. I’m feeling a bit sad in myself yet hopefully that maybe this epiphany will be the start of me doing something about it.

So back to the plan and sticking by it. The runners in the group are sticking by their weekly plans and improving …only right that I do that too.

Hello double figures and hello old faithful 

This week I turned 32…this was also the first week I pretty much stuck to my training plan. With age comes maturity and ability to stick to a plan…well for a few days anyway.

Saturday saw the plan dictate to me that I’d to break back into the double figures. I know I managed Castleward a few weeks back and pulled 17mile out of the legs that day, but it was strategy and suited my style of running. However 10 solid miles with no breaks was a different prospect. 

Of course there is only 1 place I would tackle such milage and well I was last there the week before Dublin marathon. So a return to the lake for multiple laps was long over due. Of course it was only right that my company for the run was to be Caitriona. 

Waking up on Saturday morning the ground was covered in a heavy frost. Every blade of grass was thick with bright white frost and you could feel the chill down your body as you contemplated why in God’s name where you even thinking about going out in that. 

The previous nights plan of capri trousers was soon replaced by fleece lined long tights. 

Soon it was 9am and we headed for the park. We were no more than a mile in and I had to ditch the jacket. The advantages of the park are many, access to toilet, good routes and water. But my favourite bit of the park is the rangers hut. My very own personal storage station. So dropped my jacket there and headed for a few laps of the lake.

Caitriona did question my seemingly mad reasoning to opt to take a layer off so early but I overheat quickly. However we were not even a lap in and she had to ditch a layer too. Of course the one thing the lake doesn’t have is somewhere to change enroute. So right in the middle of the path there was Caitriona stripping down to her bra to take off her base layer and put on her tshirt and jacket again.

Luckily there wasn’t many people about but as much as I wanted to take a photo to use a leverage, I’m a good person and rather write about it and let you all visualise it. 

As the miles clocked up slowly and steadily, what was a frosty and cold start had turned into a beautiful mild winters morning and as each mile passed more and more people were seen on the lake. 

I’ve missed the lake. The initial procrastination through the first KM as you start yet another lap. The inner joy as you reach the first hill as you’ve over come the urge to walk. Hitting the top of the lake and the view right down to the far side. And of course my favourite view on the home straight which was just majestic 

So the love affair has been rekindled just in time as I flirt with the start of the Derry Marathon training.  

So another week begins and although I’m sitting with ice packs on my legs right now. I know that there are many more miles to be done, many more views to enjoy and most of all many more hours shared with those who fancy a wee run out with me.

The craic at the back 

The craic at the back 

Tonight saw the return of the Newcastle group with the addition of some new faces also to get stuck into week 2 of The Running Coaches, Coached to 5k sessions. 

I’d stuck to my own plan today and had done 4 mile on the hills, quick dip at the Burrendale and was in a cracker mood. Good days like this don’t happen often. I didn’t even give off during homework so running this evening was the only way to round a great day off.

An upbeat and a lot more relaxed group this week as week 1 nerves had passed and confidence that they would survive the session after last week.

Also it was an added bonus to be an unseasonably mild January evening, I really am convinced the weather is bi-polar, with the temperature flirting with double figures after last Fridays deep freeze. 

The sea was calm and a gentle breeze was welcomed. Hats where definitely not required but hi vis was still essential. We were also very glad to welcome Coach Hugh into the group to lead and support the group throughout the session. 

We’re very lucky to have Hugh at Murlough and delighted to see him spreading his knowledge, encouragement and expertise with those new to running. And as always there was Caitriona and myself to balance the boat with a female perspective on running. More on that later.

The group had tried hard throughout the week to make a go of some running in their own time. Some by themselves and some with support. It’s  not easy taking yourself out to train. I myself hate running in public places, probably why my 20 mile training run for Dublin was 8 laps of the lake! Not too much in the open like for example, running road or busy promenades.I could happily do all my training in the confines of the forest park. Less eyes to spot you and in turn talk about you. Paranoid much?

Session got off to a good start with an enjoyable warm up which always gets the heart racing and reminding me I really need to warm up more thoroughly in future a wee skip, hop and jump isn’t sufficient.
As we set off down the promenade in side by side formation, Dermot and Hugh kept everyone right with their form and Caitriona and I kept to the back to keep spirits high. Seemingly now classed as the ‘craic at the back’ catchy lol

The promenade was a lot busier tonight and many fellow MACavisits where out stretching the legs probably saving what they have for Wintervals tomorrow and 6x 800m, boke. 

Some fantastic points and lesson learned at the Slieve Donald Hotel where I was delighted to know we weren’t running the full lap as I’m still scarred from last week’s time trial. 

And we where soon returing to base. 

It was obvious that this week the breaks where getting shorter but it was also clear everyone was beginning to be that bit more comfortable with chatting and balancing the breathing alongside it.I must admit my first session with MAC I could barely say hello during it. I had trained for 6 months on my own, not talking to anyone and then to be expected to hold a conversation…catch yourself on. Needless to say, I have had lots of practice now and can do the running and talking really well.

A thorough cool down by Hugh and feeling well stretched out. The session came to an end with hope that the crew will dig that bit deeper this week and be ready to kick ass next week as  the running becomes longer and the walking shorter.

I’ll admit I’m pretty sure there are quite a few of the group who are well capable of kicking my ass already. Which is great, hopefully they get the bug and realise their potential. I see it.

I am really enjoying being ‘a presence’ at the sessions. I don’t think I’m much assistance however what the male coaches don’t understand is the many obstacles that woman face even in a cool down. There is only so much a sports bra can do to haul ya down. But giggles where had tonight as something as simple as getting your arm to go straight across the top of your chest becomes hard work when you have self grown obstacles in the way! 

And on that point…until next session.