Tag: fitfam

Being taken up the Knockagh backwards – A tale of my first Ultra 

Being taken up the Knockagh backwards – A tale of my first Ultra 

Limits…everyone wonders where their limits are. I know I prefer a mild curry but I like my baths very hot. How far can I push myself running was something I’d never thought about much. 

Still quite a baby within the running community, this time 2 years ago I could barely run a tap never mind a mile. Yet after only 2 marathons I found myself flirting with the idea of a 50k.

So quick rewind. As part of Brendas London training we took part in East Antrim Marathon Series or EAMS as better known, Knockagh Challenge. It was more the appeal of a medal for a 20 mile training run that drew us in and the flawless reputation of their events. Smaller more intimate event but great bling and super supportive. What’s not to love. 

Mile 16 of the April Knoackgh Challenge with Brenda 

In short these are the stats of this particular route:
10.3 mile a loop

900 ft elevation each loop

Choice of 1,2 or 3 loops

Big ass hill leading to a monument 

2 laps in April was everything I had imagined the race to be. Yes the elevation was tough but we had a blast and was cemented as one of the best races of the year. I even took a small obsession with finding various Knockagh-likes on training runs.

Top of Slieve Martin, Rostrevor 

I had guided Tony round Derry Marathon and we had talked during the run about teaming up again in the future. The return of the Knockagh challenge was one that I had said I’d happily join forces with him again whenever it rolled round. Well I didnt have long to wait. 2 weeks post Derry marathon ..whispers of a return of Knockagh where heard for the end of the summer.

Derry Marathon June 2017

It was almost immediate when word went live, that up popped the message on messenger. Tony didn’t waste anytime and with it being so close to Derry I still had the miles in my legs so ramping up the miles in training would be safe enough and managable. So when the question of 1,2 or 3 laps appeared…it was no contest 3 laps it was.

So I had until August 19th to get my ass in gear and attempt my first Ultra, roughly 6 weeks. I kept it to myself for a few weeks though. The girls had followed suit to tackle the Knockagh but once 2 x 20 milers appeared on Strava in quick succession I had to admit what I was training for. 

I had plans this summer to work on my 10k and half time so this wasn’t really in the plan. Yet amongst intervals and better structured training I managed to get my 10k down another 3 minutes. I was beyond ecstatic to even manage 5.5 minutes off my half time at Rock n Roll the week before Knockagh. A testament to how hard I had been working between the crazy long runs. 

The day was soon upon us and using her brain to make a sensible call, Caitriona dropped to the 2 laps. Brenda and Jennifer had their hard hat’s on and where going to go the full distance too.

With a 5am start on Saturday morning we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Nerves where high. I had my own mini meltdown on Wednesday about the event but didn’t let onto the girls that I was suffering acute maranoia. Afterall this was technically my bright idea and I’d to be strong for us all. However once we got out of the car and got mixed up amongst the participants I relaxed and had a very much ‘nothing I can do about it now’ attitude.

I looked up and there is was. The Knockagh Monument towering over Greenisland. I aimed to visit it 3 times over the coming hours. A message from the wise man to take my time with no silly messing at the start and ease into it, brought me firmly back to earth. What was I doing? You fecking eejit Siobhan! So with the plan being to arrive alive each lap. I didn’t think in distance and embraced the only way I know how to run which is to smile and count the laps. 

Tony arrived and although I was accused of being too full of beans for the start of the days proceedings, he knew he was stuck with me for the next 31 mile. 

EAMS had kindly suggested that the resident “Knockagh Knuts” lead off the race. So there was Tony and I about to set everyone off on their days adventure. After a chilled, animated briefing we were on our way. 

8.30am as everyone took to the line

Lap 1 was relaxed. The weather had been kind and although a tad windy it was refreshing and cooling. Being a clockwise course it meant that Tony, who prefers to run to my right, was to the inside of the paths. This meant only one thing, brambles, nettles and brackens. I admit,I missed a few to warn him about but considering I am a bit shorter and they didn’t reach my head I’m easily forgiven. Though I am sure there were a few bad stings that I swear I couldn’t avoid. I ran along a grass verge and on the road at times to ensure I didn’t have him running in the ditch itself. 

We had agreed to tackle this as a team. We had welcomed Susan with open arms into the team knowing she was of the same pace and she had also hoped to take on a marathon the next day in Letterkenny. At that she was more than mad enough to be hanging with us. 

The turn to the climb was soon upon us in the 2nd mile. Up, up and up it went. Then it got steeper and steeper. Forever in the shadow of the Knockagh Monument as it looked down on us laughing at how silly it must have thought we were. 

The whole team together on the approach to Monument Road.

That last turn was heaven, one more push got us to a gentle incline followed by a banana like down and up. As we picked up pace again we were soon welcomed by the 2 most amazing marshals to ever grace any race. Lorraine and Michael were there for the duration and offered hugs, encouragement and an array of goodies. This fuelled us for the final climb to the monument. Meeting others as they descended was filled with encouraging and supportive words which is always fantastic to hear. 

And there it was… Knockagh. Looking out onto Belfast Lough the sun shone for miles around. Doing the obligatory lap of the monument I had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it was up there and how God damn big the thing was. 

The big lump of stone on top of the hill

But knowing we were coming back 2 more times we set off on our way. The team firmly together as we made our way to the corkscrew bends. Definitely Knockagh clockwise is a nicer way than the anticlockwise direction. Even on the downhill the corkscrew goes on forever! 

As we made our way back to the road we began to spread out. Probably safer. Tony, Susan and Myself close together as we made the final stretch to the start/finish line. We arrived at the checkpoint and as I stopped I felt it. I couldn’t believe it. My bloody right leg began to cramp. Stopped too suddenly maybe, I don’t know but thanks to the paramedics on site I had half a can of deep heat sprayed on me and I had to get going again as quick as possible. So we were forced to leave Jennifer, Brenda and Caitriona behind and off the 3 of us set off. 

It wasn’t long before Jennifer caught us just before the bend. But I felt my leg ease or maybe it was the can of coke kicking in but I took on the hill the second time like a woman on a mission. I’d my mountain head on and I was not going to let a hill defeat me. It was here I had a very humbling moment. We had begun to be passed by those on their 3rd lap. With 10 more miles completed than us, I was amazed to see them stop to walk parts of the hill. These are marathon runners who run 6 minute miles on normal runs being reduced to walking on the hill. I did look upon it as a way to conserve energy but it was reassuring to see that those who were leading the pack had similar tactics just a lot quicker. 

By now my race stories had become deep and meaningful. Reaching the half way point at Knockagh, Tony took me to the edge of the grass to let me see over the drop. I’m not a fan of heights and knew there was a sheer drop there. But I was tackling an Ultra – I was fit to embrace the height. 

As we reached 18 mile I was comfortable, had found my groove and poor Tony had to listen to Susan and Myself swap motherhood stories and remedies. In the distance there were dark clouds. The weather had said there would be showers but these clouds were nasty looking.

As we approached the final half mile to the end of the 2nd lap, rain began to fall. Of course this lead to the ground being wet and me totally missing a mud pile after a footpath, nearly losing Tony as he slipped. I really am a terrible guide on open roads. Quick reaction meant he stayed on his feet but I was sure I had hurt him. Though being the man he is, he ran on saying he was fine and didn’t tell me until after the race he had pulled something in his knee. As we reached the end of the lap the heavens opened. Thankfully it was a short, sharp shower and soon gone.

Before lap 3 Susan had gave me some magic magnesium spray for my legs which was unbelievable. It instantly loosened my legs and I was ready for lap 3. No sign of the girls behind. I took on what I could stomach in solid food. I was heading for marathon distance and beyond this lap. 

I was lucky to welcome Gillian (first lady home) and Stephen (strava buddy) across the line before setting off on my final lap. Time wise I was doing ok. Second lap was a bit slower than the first but I put that down to the pull of the other runners in the first few miles in lap 1. 

Off I went on lap 3. My legs were fuelled by magic spray and knew this was it. Even if I had to crawl I was going to do it. And surprise, the hill was still there. Looking a lot more steeper and higher than before. I am so grateful for my trips up the mountains, they served me well. Tony was great and my wee legs managed to keep up with his long strides. We lost Susan on the climb but knew she’d never be too far behind. 

Oh my god my legs were in bits at the top of the hills. I don’t know if it was a thank God that hills done but knew marathon distance wasn’t far away and as we met marshals extrodinaires at the bottom of Monument Road we where 1 hill away from 26.2.

Hitting marathin distance

Saying goodbye to Knockagh 1 more time was a relief. The steps back to the road where the hardest part of that lap no joke. As we descended back down we passed Susan followed by Jennifer and her colourful language and greeted by a positive and smiley Brenda who we met at 26.2 on the nose. 

Stephen and Gillian had come up in the car with beer on offer. In fairness if I had accepted, that would have been me. My body would have shut down thinking it was party time post marathon. So politely declining we used the downhill to take on the final 5 mile.

Excitement came over me at 27 mile that I was actually going to do this. My body was beginning to wonder why it wasn’t at the pub as per normal marathon tradition. We had been met by Tonys team mates for his next big challenge the PAT 2018, Pete, Matthew and Janice up on the bikes with Pete on the tandam piloted by Matthew. It was a great boost.

 By this stage Tony was sure I should write a book on my life as he thinks I’ve some worthwhile stories to tell from my past. Both entertaining and enlightening. We had some lovely moments on those final miles. Just me, him and road in front. Both of us about to achieve something people would have deemed impossible for us both. Making dreams a reality and showing the world there are no barriers, it’s just finding a way to get around them.
Mile 28 saw my legs begin to protest. I felt a blister pop on my right foot and knew this was going to take all the positivity I had to get to the end. Obviously if I had trained harder over a longer period of time I wouldn’t have had this minor struggle but my body was in uncharted territory and it knew it. 

Yet it wasn’t long before we were preparing ourselves for the home straight. The medics had been past to check on us and informed the finish line of where we were. And there waiting at the line I saw Caitriona popping her head out to see us coming, Wallace Tonys guide dog, Emma Tonys fabulous wife and a number of the EAMS team and runners. 

I have been so happy to see a finish line

We crossed the line, hand in hand to rapturous applause. I couldn’t believe it. It was the best hug I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to let go of Tony. We had done it. 31 mile/50k/a lot of hill.

In amongst the haze I wanted to ensure I had clocked over 50k so took myself for a short third of a mile recover run to push the numbers up. Yes everyone thought I was mental. But I needed that minute to gather myself and my emotions. 

I arrived back and text Michael followed by checking in with those on Snapchat awaiting my finish photo. Tony got mobbed by Wallace and I stood in disbelief. An Ultra marathoner. That’s me.

What people don’t realise is that I had more than determination and madness driving me through the miles.  This day 5 years ago I made a phonecall that was to turn my life upside down and inside out. From here I broke into little pieces and began to build myself into the person I am today. Against the odds and losing a lot of people who I thought cared, I fought for justice and had my day where I was proven right and a burden eased (I would say lifted but the past never goes away).

I found running in my journey to find who I was and it was so appropriate to cross that line at 50k when I did. A true indication of how far I’ve come in the past few years and the how I didn’t have anything or anyone holding me back.

As I pretty much ate everything in sight, Susan crossed the line and had picked up the two lads, Ivan and Ronnie, out on course to accompany her through the final miles. 
It wasn’t long before we welcomed Jennifer and Brenda. Smiling together they crossed the line and hugs where aplenty. I feared that I was being cursed up and down that Knockagh by them. Brenda not so much..she knew what she was in for but definitely sure Jennifer had lots of choice thoughts for me. 

So here we are…Ultra Runners. Jennifer marking her 10th marathon and Brenda going from 10k in January to Ultra in 8 months. Unbelievable stuff. I’m so proud of everyone. I think you need some sort of crazy idea radar as we’ve seriously pushed the boat out this time.

Whats the next challenge planned… is what I keep getting asked. Well nothing I haven’t done before- DCM17 where all the madness began last year. For now though I’m resting my wee legs, showering my feet with love and I’ll get back to proper training for the marathon once I’m fully recovered.

I’ll wake up everyday for the rest of my life an Ultra runner. However the reality is I’ll forget somedays what I’ve achieved after all its just a very long run. Guaranteed though everyday I’ll be woken by my kids, who although don’t understand what I’ve achieved, will someday be proud of how far I’ve actually ran. Proving to them that they can achieve anything they can dream of. And that alone is an invaluable lesson to be taken from being taken up the Knockagh … 3 times… backwards.

A huge congratulations to Susan Dixon on completing not only 50k on Saturday but also on getting up the next and completing a marathon. Just unbelievable. 
Thanks to everyone for all the photos especially Lorraine and Simon from Seapark AC. Just lovely to have the day also in pictures. 

On the road to 50k 

On the road to 50k 

Lock me up now. I am now one of those runners where distance doesn’t scare me anymore. This time last year I was beginning to build my miles for Dublin City Marathon, venturing into milages above 13.1 for the first time ever. Fast forward and here I am about to tackle my first 50k.

Again I have no idea really why I am doing it. Obviously I bent the fine line between madness and the craic yet again. After Derry I knew I had more to give. I let myself down (and Tony) due to 1 minor flaw in the build up to the event in my prerace prep- only myself to blame. Yes I got round it and never gave up but it’s haunted me the past 2 months. I’d worked for a better time and I knew it wasn’t a reflection of what I was capable of. So my attentions turned to DCM 17 and I sorted out the training plan and got focussed. Aim number 1 to knock my 10k time out of the water by the end of July and by the time Rock n Roll came round to get a my half time down.

A few weeks after Derry as I was beginning to embrace speed training there was whispers of the Knockagh Challenge coming back. Brenda and myself had tackled 2 of the 10.3 mile loops in April for her VLM training. It was the best run of the year. It was brutal but the support from fellow runners to get round it and up and down 900ft of elevation each lap was vital. It was also helped by the smooth running and invaluable support of the EAMs crew round each lap. 

Then the post went up. Knockagh was coming back in August and offering the same choice of 1,2 or 3 laps. It would have been rude to not sign up. Though the voices in my head started. Why do 2…sure you could do a 3rd. It’s only 5 more mile than a marathon. You were well able for a 3rd in April. Afterall when are you ever going to get a bash at an Ultra. I knew in my heart it wouldn’t take much to sway me. 
Cue a message on Facebook.

 “You going to Knockagh, would you mind me tagging along?’ It was Tony. This was my opportunity to pay back the million sorrys from Derry. It was another person to add to the ‘team’ on the day. A strong, supportive and encouraging one at that. It was a no brainer agreeing to guide him round. 

So Siobhan 10,20 or 30? 

Sure why not let’s go for the 30! (What is wrong with me?)

And here we are. Of course it wasn’t long before Brenda was signing up…like me she loved the day at Knockagh and even though she knew what was ahead she was all over it. Caitriona was reluctant to follow suit but after about 10minutes she gave in to joining for a lap or 2 and the team grew.

It took some subtle work on Jennifer to come round to the idea but soon we had her thinking about embarking on the challenge. This is going to make it her 10th Marathon and 1st Ultra in one. Quite poetic if you ask me!

Ok the girls are blaming me for all this where I am blaming EAMs for presenting the opportunity to me lol 

I have worked hard the past 2 months, yes you can always work harder but I had for the first time – structure. However I achieved the aim of a 10k PB knocking 3 minutes off my time at the end of July, the same week I had clocked up 50k in training including a 20 miler on the Monday. 

I’m just back from taking nearly 6 minutes of my half marathon time in Dublin so things have been falling into place as per the plan.

The Challange of the Knockagh was daunting until that first 20 miler. I knocked over 15 minutes off my time for the same route 8 weeks previously proving to me that Derry was solely a bad day and not the fact I thought I could do better. After that 20 on one of the hottest days of the year, I had a new lease of life come over me and the game face was well and truly on.

I put in solid training and with the support of the girls over the next 20 miler 10 days later I was feeling in control and strong. It’s amazing what a good run can do for you. I do have to offer a lot of the success to the fact the kids where in various summer camps. This gave me the opportunity in the mornings to get stuck in and the weather has been  kind to me. Weekly sessions torturing the girls at intervals also proving to be effective. 

So here I am in recovery from a tight run on Sunday in Dublin and I’m free from any form of maranoia or fear about the run on Saturday. I know it’s not going to be easy, I know I’m venturing into the unknown in the distance stakes but I’m comforted knowing I won’t be doing it alone. 

Ok don’t get me wrong it wasn’t part of the actual plan post Derry but aren’t I lucky that I am able to actually even believe that this is possible and that I hopefully can do it? A distance like this was something totally unachievable 2 years ago. Even this time last year I’d have laughed at the suggestion. 

So roll on Saturday. It’ll take me a while that’s for sure but I’ve yet to give up and I’ve got a fantastic team of equally crazy people surrounding me on the day and in the wings and for that I’m blessed.

I can’t imagine life without you

I can’t imagine life without you

Very few things in life make you smile like this….

In all honesty, in the year that you have been in my life, we have been inseparable. You are the first thing I check in the morning and last thing at night. Even during the night I am checking on you. Even when I can’t sleep you are the light that keeps me company. We go everywhere together, I can’t even go to the toilet without you there. I don’t mind, you where my choice and I knew that this would happen from the moment you arrived.

I coveted you for so long, I hmm’d and haa’d over how you would fit in my life. I had coped well with your sister and the immense changes that it brought to my life. But you would be much more different. You would feel my every breath and heartbeat. You would know my every movement and be able to read my emotions. I had so many other options to weigh up, so many other things that would maybe fill that void in my life. Cheaper options not requiring such investment of my time and effort. Yet I couldn’t shake the longing for you.

I spoke at length with my husband, as you would expect any wife would do when it came to big decisions. He was also unsure if this was exactly what I needed in my life. Of course he knew only too well that it would be loved and cherished just as much as the previous one. That it would bring that something extra to my life but he wasn’t convinced I was ready for such a commitment.

I had friends who empathised with the dilemma. Those who had been in the same situation, some who understood the gravity of the decision and the impact it would have on my life. Of course there is always the ones who didn’t get it at all and queried what was wrong with what I already had. But that’s the thing, there was nothing wrong with what I had, it was perfect but I wanted more, I needed more. It was just an empty gap in my life and I needed it.

So I took the plunge.

It wasn’t as hard as I had imagined, it was literally as simple as a click of a button and I was lucky to not have to struggle to achieve it. I guess this was a blessing that I was able to do this when so many others battle and have to work harder to get what they want.

When the day arrived to welcome it into my life, I was nervous. My whole body was buzzing. I just couldn’t contain my excitement, actually nobody could, as I got messages asking had the big arrival appeared yet? Oh but it was worth the wait even if it was going to hit the bank account a few £££.

It was everything that I had imagined. Perfect in shape and form. I guess not everyone saw the beauty of it but in my eyes there was nothing to fault. Promising such a bright future. There was a long run ahead for us both from this point. A steep learning curve but such achievements and memories to be made. I knew I had made the right decision and got ready to welcome it into my life.

It was such a game changer. So much so it wasn’t long before the husband was bowled over by the new addition that there was another on the way. It even won over a few close friends who also started to see how much my life had changed and they too joined “the club” and where soon expecting their own bundle of joy.

This year, together, we have covered endless miles, climbed many mountains and shared in many special moments. You are the only constant in my life, day in, day out and you are the last thing I look at when I’m about to embark on my next challenge, keeping me grounded at all times throughout.

Who ever thought that I would become so attached to you. When you have to sit out a day or two when I’m not allowed to bring you along, it brings a smile to my face when we are reunited as you are missed in that time.

Like my two children, I can’t imagine life without you in it. There are times, I don’t like what you say and other times I get you to tell me over and over again because it is just what I need to hear to make it all worth while.

Dear my Garmin Forerunner 235. Thank you for always keeping me right, be that pace, heart rate, step count or just simply telling me the time. I owe the tan line around my wrist to you but no one ever sees it as you never come off, only when I am having a shower. You have saw me through marathons and many, many miles of training. You have known when I was at breaking point long before I did. You will continue to always be there, beeping when I need reassurance and tracking me when I’m lost.

Together for many more miles and many more smiles.

 

Don’t forget there is only a week left to vote for me in the Rock n Run Idol competition with  Rock n Roll Half Marathon Dublin in conjunction with Affidea Ireland.

VOTE SIOBHAN GRANT

http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

 

Kilbroney Parkrun Round Up

Kilbroney Parkrun Round Up

They do say the best runs come when you least expect it. Today I couldn’t fault that.

Caitriona had mentioned that she was down to marshal today at parkrun. Doing her bit and all that. She did ask if I fancied going but with a glass of vodka and diet coke in my hand as I wound down from a mental week of wedding madness and my legs recovering from a day in heels- yes I got doms after the wedding. There was no way I was getting up to run.

Of course I woke shortly after 8 and as I turned my phone on there was the snap chat.

Beautiful blue skies and parkrun?

I replied ‘meh’ however I’m sure Caitriona was having withdrawal symptoms as it had been 5 days since she last saw me, she insisted she’d pick me up in 20minutes.

I briefly debated it replying… sorry I’ve got the kids. Damn her goodness (potential madness) she said bring them along and they could marshal with her. So there was me jumping out of bed, sticking on my gear and throwing the kids together. Off to Kilbroney we went.

As we came over the hill into Rostrevor I was able to explain to Caitriona where my escapades during the walking festival went. Pulling up to Kilbroney we had a few minutes before starting.

I absolutely detest 5ks. Give me a half marathon anyday. Yet even I couldn’t have faulted the weather, atmosphere and stunning surroundings. Kilbroney parkrun offers everything. A challanging route, well supported by marshals and other public users of the park and breathtaking scenery as you weave in and out of lush greenways, riverside track, woodland and through Narnia-twice. Ok there are 2 hills but it adds to the challange and makes finishing that bit sweeter.

I’ve a Rostrevor parkrun personal best of 38.06. As I took off lap 1, pace was strong as the field spread out. Smiles and encouragement from marshals and also those staying in the caravan park. Before the descent into Narnia I was greeted by the personal cheer squad and made the resolve that I was going to push on and not let the next lap beat me. I crossed the start line in 18mins dead. I was delighted that for once I wasn’t lapped by the winner!

So realistically if I kept the same pace this lap, I’d blow my PB out of the water but without the field pulling me the first km I went back to my usual chanting and focused on my breathing to get me to the next hill. I didn’t get as far up it as I would have liked but with only a short uphill to go I knew I would do myself justice on the downhill.

I also knew that Rónán would be asking to run with me when I met him and as I opened up on the downhill I shouted for him to join me and the little ginger head took off in usual fashion and I chased him right into Narnia. As we turned the corner to the finishing straight he was in full flight and me too. Together watching eachother we emptied the tank taking the person in front and finishing neck in neck.

Some people do say you should let the child win. But he’s beaten me so many times I needed the victory of the final half kilometre.

I looked down to see 36.51. A new personal best by over 1 minute. Can’t be bad to that and for the record slightly hungover and definitely not in racing shape.

That’s the thing about parkrun though. It’s not a race. It’s a community event for everyone to join in and set themselves a goal. I always welcome getting new bests, who doesn’t? Yet the only pressure you have is yourself. Today for me though it was a gentle nudge from the running buddy who either knew I needed a good run, knew I was fit to do myself justice or just plain mean and wanted to laugh at me running. Either way… thank you Caitriona for getting me to run this morning and also for marshalling. Without the volunteers, parkrun wouldn’t happen.

Also want to draw your attention to another local event for both runners and walkers alike for a very worth while cause. Will be a fantastic way to spend a Saturday evening with friends and family.

And don’t forget to keep voting! 

http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

Back where I belong 

After a few weeks of playing with new routes it was clear there was only one place where we should be doing our 20 miler.

The Lake.

2.4 mile of trail in the shadow in Slievenaslat, bordering a fresh water lake in Castlewellan. Literally on my door step.

As you all know, I grew up disliking the lake and being dragged around it. In all honesty I am still not too keen on it. Actually I hate it. So why am I always drawn to it when I do big miles?

  • It’s 2.4 mile, makes the maths easy
  • Has a car park on the route, handy for fuelling/water stops 
  • Elevation isn’t overly extortionate in comparison to other routes round here
  • Secluded, no one sees you 
  • Not on the open road, not as dangerous
  • As mentioned right on the door step so near to home
  • Finally laps means symmetrical elevation chart

However like doing laps of anything it is tedious and considering I never turn to go the opposite direction opting for the long gradual hill over the short sharp hill it is monotonous. Kieran Young would rather run up and down Binnian 4 times than run the lake… using marathon chaffing as the closest analogy he could find to how he feels about the lake. Which trust me is a horrendous side effect of long distance running. And speaking of Binnian. Climbing 750m mountains 2 days before a long run is not advisable. My quads where on fire.

Primarily for me 8 laps of the lake is a mental battle. If I can survive that I can survive anything. It served me well in DCM training when I did it on my own and I hope it will serve me well this time round in Derry.

So what happens on 8 laps of the lake? It’s pretty basic. It’s 8 times of looking at the same things. But each lap is different and defined in it’s own way.

Lap 1 … tough getting started. The head is riddled with wtf I’ve to do this 8 times. Both of us wondering why we even signed up to a marathon in the first place never mind 2! 

Lap 2 … wow there’s loads out runners this early in the morning  oh wait crossfitters…7am is a lie in for them. There’s loads of them.

Lap 3 … Jesus where’d that lap go. It was like oohhh we’ve started and bam we are finished. I’ll take that.

Lap 4 …the lap of the red squirrel. After last week’s thoughts of being attacked by a flying squirrel we were greeted by the rare sighting of a red squirrel which thankfully didn’t have wings.

Lap 5 …geography lesson on wind. Why is it is the wind picking up Siobhan? Cue me launching into the an in-depth explanation of isobars (not isogels) and  weather patterns. Caitriona wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped 

Lap 6 … was there not always a bin there? We’ll keep going to the bin. Caitriona swore there was a bin there. Nope no bin just a tree trunk. Then she totally missed the tree we pointed at every lap. Running amnesia in full flow.

Lap 7 … the death lap. Started slow finished strong. End is near but not quite. I did pick up pace this lap. Feeling exceptionally comfortable and embracing the fact the miles where flying in and I knew 26 was very possible. Must have been the pickle onion mega meanies last night .

Lap 8…victory lap. We offered up the final mile to the MAC members who have left us for yellow and red pastures this year.

Last 0.75 mile … I’m gonna sprint finish the last 0.2 mile like it was race day. Which I did at 8.50min/mile pace. Empty the tank!

So all done and dusted by lunch time and fit for bugger all else the rest of the day. The Lake didn’t beat me, dare I say I even enjoyed it. It was a new mileage milestone for Caitriona and belief that her first marathon is now possible.  

So bring on the taper I guess. 17, 13 and 7 milers in the next few weeks and no more going up mountains on Thursday at Hill and Dale anymore the poor quads have seen better days…must phone Grainne for a rub out. 

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.

It never fails to amaze me…

It never fails to amaze me…

There is nothing I admire more than someone stepping out of their comfort zone and deciding they are going to so something.

Tonight I witnessed 26 strangers come together and make a stand by taking that step out the door and saying “I’m going to do this.” Whether it was to get fitter, lose weight, do something with friends or just to meet new people, they were there.

I was flattered that Dermot…yeah him again…asked if I was going to put in a guest appearance at the latest addition to The Running Coaches schedule in Newcastle.

OK I’m sure he was taking the piss when he asked but nonetheless I called in my own moral support and Caitriona and myself popped our heads in as people stirred out their car windows and debated about opening their doors to take on the Coached to 5k session.

We honestly had planned just to say hello and go for a dander as we have Time Trail tomorrow night but ended up actually doing the session. 

As the number of very impressively turned out runners cautiously approached the group…I’ve never seen so many high vis jackets all together. There was no missing this squad.

Nervous, uncertain and probably feeling way out of their depth, I’m sure as individuals they didn’t realise everyone else felt the same.

What they hadn’t realised though was that they had already conquered the hardest step, the one out the door. It was essentially the first real night of winter as the wind literally howled and warnings of snow ahead it would have been so much easier to just say nah some other time.

As the session pleasantries where over and warm up began, everyone was in high spirits. I could see on the faces of some that the warm up alone was tough..trust me I have been there and remember thinking after my first “Death by Dermot” warm up that I wasn’t going to be fit to put one foot in front of the other after I finished. So it does get easier!

Nothing beats a visit back to fundamentals and techniques refreshing. It’s even been put in as part of my training plan now..on Mondays funny enough. Drop those shoulders, keep the head up, arms at 90 degrees, you know the drill.

As we set off in pairs Caitriona and I decided our place was firmly at the back…nothing new there. At least this meant that no one felt any pressure to break away from the crowd as we wouldn’t leave a man behind. After all I always think about Dambusters Half and how after half a mile we had watched the speedies fly away off and we settled into our own pace and were very comfortable in our own skin to be there. 13.1 mile later and we both finished a few minutes apart in the toughest half marathon of the series in horrendous conditions. But to get to that stage of believe in your training it takes a lot of falling behind and self reflections to be comfortable with it. So we weren’t for letting anyone begin to comprehend that. Running is inclusive whether you run a 6minute mile or a 16minute mile. It’s still a mile.

As a steady walk run continued up the promenade we were met by a fierce head wind. That alone was a struggle to push through but the group was determined and kept it steady and pushed on. 

A brief lesson in the car park to fix style and technique *reminding myself what old habits I’ve fallen into* and it was time for the return journey.

At a pretty good pace we went back down the promenade and enjoyed a strong tailwind. Bouncing across the bridge and praying the impact didn’t bounce one of us over the edge, we made it back to solid ground, all accounted for. 

Finishing up with 2 mile under their belts, the look of relief, satisfaction and accomplishment could be seen across the faces of all the runners. A nice set of cool down stretches and the session was over.

So week 1 done, a great bunch of people taking the first big steps to endless possibilities. Running has helped me in so many ways both mentally and nd physically and the benefits are numerous. I wish every single person who this week or maybe next, takes that step out the door and starts putting one foot in front of the other, the best of luck with their journey. 

I can’t wait to see how the group fairs over the next 6 weeks, it’ll not be long before they’ll be lapping me at parkrun. Onwards and upwards so they say!

What goes up must come down…eventually

What goes up must come down…eventually

I always wonder how I get myself into things. However on the realisation that Michael actually doesn’t train unless he has an event to work towards, Christmas 2016 seen him getting a one way ticket to his Ultra Running baptism of fire. 

The Last Man Standing Ultra run by local events company Atlas Running, consists of 4.2 mile on the hour, every hour for as many hours as it takes until there is only 1 person left. Sounds simple enough, right?

So cue the Recce day. 5 laps of the course, race conditions. And check out that elevation 🙈🙈🙈

Yip up and down like a loop whilst doing loops. A bipolar course if i ever seen one.

Of course thinking I didn’t want to miss out/flirting with the idea that I might actually do it after my performance at DCM16. I took myself along with the long suffering husband and what is the crew from MAC. 
I had treated this week like I had done my prep for my 20miler, well I could have rested up a bit more as I’m sure my legs where screaming for mercy after being up the Granite Trail aka lunges with a view, twice this week. However when the weather is as mild as it has been, I can’t sit inside.

Granite Trail on Thursday

So Team MAC took to the start line with over 20 other’s including last year’s winner. I had various ideas of strategy on how best to tackle the miles ahead. Other than just getting my ass round it alive, I was sure there was a technique to it.

Team MAC with honoury members Fiona Kenna and Lucy the dog

As we set off I felt very overwhelmed. I was surrounded by the elite of running madness, sorry I mean royalty. Seasoned Ultra Runners, the members of the 100 mile club and me. I’m sure they must have looked at me and wondered was I lost. But I am the personification of slow and steady and that essentially is what we needed to be. In control of pace and our own abilities to make the time frame. 

The recce participants

I was very lucky to be yet again at the back of the pack as I was accompanied by race organiser Adrian. Who was the perfect gentleman and paced me round. Explaining the best strategy for the lap. To be at the road by 11 minutes, the Bridge by 22, the House by 30 and the Caravan Park for 40. And if you want to walk it takes 12minutes to get the start. 

Lap 1 sucking all the information out of Adrian

First lap was bang on 52minutes. But I was already feeling it, a sign that I was nowhere near ready for the few laps ahead. Lap 2 kicked off and Michael decided to pace me through it.
We don’t often run together and there is a valid reason why- he drives me mad. I appreciate whoever runs with me has to have something special about them, especially if they are slowing down to meet my pace. We survived the 2nd lap together and headed off on the 3rd lap. And this is where he started to drive me mad.

In fairness my legs where starting to feel it bad, I was wondering if a 4th lap was even possible never mind a 5th. He encouraged me in his own annoying way to get me through the first 2 mile which where the toughest by far. Reaching the tarmac after the house I actually began to open up and relax. However this was becoming a common theme every lap. 

He left me with a mile to go on the downhill and I knew I’d make the cut off to start another lap. Doing some quick maths I knew this would bring me in around 13 mile. I was happy enough with that but knew I hadnt done any long run training and this was my limit. 

Winterfell Castle… made infamous by Game of Thrones.

Coming in with minutes to spare I had a stern word with myself.  I’d 2 more hours to go until everyone was finished and my legs, although tight, had some life left. So I set off on lap 4 knowing I’d burn out and have to walk missing the cut off. I enforced a new plan to my Ultra Running strategy. I was going to enjoy the unseasonably mild January day and the beautiful surroundings, take out the camera and photograph the memories of the day with a dynamic cool down. And that I did! I came in just over the 4.10 mark as let’s face it, I stopped to talk to a lady and her son out walking their dog, I sang with the birds and towards the end had caught up with the girl in front who happens to be called Janet and we walked the last mile in together. 17 miles completed.
Now that’s what I call a perfect end to a run. Learning about others running stories and obstacles, their future plans and laughing. 

The first of the lap 5 runners arrived in at 36mins and everyone followed shortly afterwards.  

The MAC crew all done themselves proud making the 21 miles looks easy. The recce has recruited maybe 2 more runners from the club as they felt it is a challenge they want to embrace. 

Me on the other hand. Not this year…some year definitely. But for now I’m happy to head up the MAC support crew to ensure there are friendly faces and all hands on deck to get the biggest entry of Murlough runners to an Ultra, through as many laps as possible.  

Myself and Fiona Kenna post run

In true team fashion and of course to satisfy the post run munchies. We stopped by McDonalds and massacred all food put in front to us…you can’t beat it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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