Tag: half marathon

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

Ards Half- the return to racing ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Half Marathon…12 hours notice, sure why not!

OK, I’ve made some really rash decisions in my time. This week I was determined not to run other than my 10 mile on Sunday. We had both consciously decided after a mad few weekends in the running world, that it was time we had a weekend off and spent it relaxing.

In theory it was a good plan. The kids had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon so would pan out well overall. Ok I will admit that I had the fear of missing out because the club was running a bus to Carlingford Half but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been chasing my tail the past few weeks and I knew my limits, so I thought!

Tuesday saw Caitriona offer Michael a place in the half, although he hasn’t been dying to run much since Last One Standing, he reluctantly took the number, thanks to Gavin and said he’d think about it. So a plan was made, we’d drive down with the kids, he’d run and I’d entertain them, the Grant cheer squad as such. However things took a change on Friday afternoon.

Checking my phone at lunch time and one of the girls in the club wasn’t going to make it for the Half. I was tempted, I don’t like things going to waste. I’ve great memories of Carlingford 10k last year when I pb’d by 6 minutes in the 10k after an abysmal performance at Castlewellan the week before, also a last minute decision to run that the night before too. So it seemed like it was an omen.

I threw the idea past the all knowing powers that be in Dermot. Where he pointed out that my attitude of “I don’t know if I could be bothered” was the wrong one and highlighting for doing 3 mile more than my planned 10, I’d get a medal- very logical. So as I worked through to the end of the day, guilt consumed me, I’d not done much since my 16 miler on Sunday and group on Monday so I was behind alright. Apparently I’d thank him afterwards for the encouragement to run it.

I waited until after school to call Michael. His reply to “I fancy Carlingford” was short and sweet “That isn’t the plan Siobhan.” The problem – what would we do with the kids. So it wasn’t until after 7 that it became a viable option for me to run the race.

I must have been absolutely mad. Who runs a half marathon with just over 12 hours notice?  There was no way I would be able to push myself the way I did at DUNE. I also had the fear that I’d feel sick again, like DUNE. I hadn’t drank as much water as I normally would have in the days before a race, however I had the miles in the legs, that wasn’t an issue and I’m stubborn so I was going for a run and not a race.

I’ve come a long way in a year. I thought back to last year and the fact it was Michaels first half, also Tara, Thomas and Jackies. I was in awe at what they achieved that day, with 10k being my biggest distance. Yet here I was a year later, willy nilly going for 13 miles as if it was a walk around the lake. I have definitely lost the plot. Throwback to Carlingford is here

I think it came as a shock to some of the MAC crew to see me kitted out for the run after I’d made it clear I wasn’t running on several occasions in the past few weeks. But there I was with 17 other MAC about to get stuck in. I stood at the start and as the count down began it dawned on me, shit I’m about to run a half marathon. I think the girls didn’t know what to think other than laugh at my light blub moment.

So off we set and with the course slightly altered this year at the beginning it still merged onto the same rolling hills into the Louth countryside. It was a busy first few miles but by mile 3 the pack had settled down and I was comfortable within my own space. Mile 4 saw the heavens open and after the rain of days gone by, there was a chance that it wouldn’t stop. I had the best of craic with the Ormeau Runners contingent as they passed by me in a sea of bright green t-shirts. Always a pleasure to spend a few miles with one or ten of them and great to see Janet out pounding the roads after her LOS performance only 2 weeks ago.

By 5 mile I’d fallen in with Andrea from OR, she was having a tough race and was debating calling it a day. For her it was just a bad combination of the world being a complete ass and giving her a bad run and her head giving up. So for 3 mile we ran side by side and got through the half way mark safely and headed for the shoreline. With passing marshals, Andrea found herself coming round and determined to make it to the end. I was delighted to see this and as she found her rhythm again around mile 10 and we skipped through the best puddle ever, she took off and I watched her push to the finish.

But my happiness was short lived, I had smashed the first 10 mile in perfect time to come in where I wanted. And the lesson to be learned from my rash decision began to punish me. It started at my ankle and began creeping up my leg, cramp. It was a given that it was going to happen. There’s only so much a gel or 2 can do for you when there’s a lack of water in the body, so there is was mile 11, having to walk.

Looking at my watch I knew I was capable of coming in on the low 2.40s but my leg wouldn’t let me. The head wind of last years race was no where to be seen today and in near perfect conditions I couldn’t utilise them. Not one to give up, I chatted with those out on course who where plodding along. By mile 12 the end was in sight, but its a damn long mile when you are in agony. Reaching the last km I decided to make a stab at not looking like I was dead as I came round to the finish. Turning the corner for the last 300m was Jennifer, a vision in blue and the screams of Paula as they willed me home.

I found my final last wind and put in a strong finish even though I wanted to die. On the corner stood some of the MAC crew who came back to cheer me home which was just fabulous. Crossing the line to the familiar 26 Extreme faces and a bonus Twix bar was fantastic. I met Andrea as she made her way back to her bus, looking relieved. Also got a much appreciated hug from Janet which was well needed after that.

So yeah, not the best run with time coming in at 2.52, and I have a million excuses. I have acknowledged them, however no point complaining or dwelling on it. Drawing the line now and eyes move to the next race in 2 weeks at Larne for my first long guide running experience.

I was delighted to see on returning home that Mr “you’ll thank me afterwards” won the 10k. Some staggeringly impressive PBs in the club from Hugh, Declan and Clare. Paula completed her 50th half marathon also and everyone put in strong runs. Guess Michael and I must have been the only ones up to all hours last night watching the election results whilst everyone had an early night as everyone else did great and we both had awful runs.

But 13 mile in the bag and a very nice medal for the collection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAC on Tour

MAC on Tour

I suppose when you think about it, most of my “days out” this year have been to go to races. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m still getting out. So when Michael McKenna threw the idea of a bus run to the Causeway Coast out there a few months back, I wasn’t long ensuring I’d be on it.

After what has been an iffy few weeks in marathon training, I’d been warned how dangerous this route was and to be careful, well essentially I was told not to do it. But really how bad could it be? 

Hmm. …

So bus picked us up at 8am and that began the 2 hour trip to the scenic North Coast. 26 Extreme, who organise this race have the tagline “we don’t do easy” and it is this foundation that they pride themselves on. So with worries from competitors about high winds and bad weather they were basically told to pull up their big girl pants and horse her on.

With a glass of bubbles on the bus at 9.30 as second breakfast, we arrived in Portbalintrae. The sky looked moody and as team MAC dandered to the start line minus super runner McKenna doing a few mile before the race, the fear of what lay ahead began to sink in. 

Numbers collected and got ourselves sorted, we where soon on the bus to the start line. The thoughts of the previous race information highlighting what to do ie do what the Marshall says or you’ll get seriously injured or die. Played through my mind. Did they really have to be so dramatic..as the race progressed it became very apparent that they weren’t telling lies.
 

 With the majority of Team Mac opting for the half marathon we braved the cliff edge for a group photo. We were soon on the road, well questionable gravel uphill before turning onto a grass path. I knew I had to be careful and from the off I stuck with Caitriona. We were in this together and after promising her I wouldn’t run off and leave her, or take her at the finish line all was going well for the first 2 mile.

Mac half marathon machines to quote Joe McMahon

A few hold ups at the stiles allowed for race picture taking but nothing too dangerous or challanging in the beginning. Settling in we both turned to eachother saying well if we keep this pace up we’d be flying. Hmm mm

I laughed off a comment from an Ultra runner that we’d need our swimming gear around the corner. He wasn’t too far wrong. The tide was in and we had to go into the water. I’ve heard many people say they where up to their knees in the water, for short asses like me I was up to my knickers! 
Leaving the water to run a mile on the beach where I was treated to a sandblasting/exfoliation treatment from the wind and the sand was far from enjoyable. As we reached the rocks the heavens opened and let’s face it, it was the really wet big rain. At 3 mile in, I was hoping that this was the worst of the course. How wrong was I. Even after the rocks, I could have easily killed myself as I was about to run into a chain I didn’t see and Caitriona thankfully steered me clear.

The ground had been cut up by all the previous runners and because it was so soft and wet it wasn’t long before I was on my ass. It happened in slow motion, I had flash backs from falling up Bernagh in the snow back in March as I hit the ground. Thankfully my extra “padding” had taken the brunt of the fall and I was able to carry on, with a bruised ego and mucky shorts.

The rain continued to fall and at the first feed stop the haribo where swimming in water. All this water meant I had to pee so following the race instructions I avoided wild weeing and used the toilet instead. 

Plodding on we began to feel like we where getting somewhere. However the next 6 miles where to be the most brutal experience of my life. Between steps,stiles, more steps, slipping, steps, sliding, steps and guess what more steps. I managed to stay primarily on my feet falling only 1 more time and bashing my shoulder. And as for the stiles, short legs Siobhan could barely get her leg over some of them and would have been better crawling under them. 

Mid race selfie

The views where stunning after the rain cleared up and although I was holding onto the fence for dear life as we progressed, I began to enjoy it as the thought of how much worse could this get, kept you going.  

Just past Ballintoy Harbour

Conversation was plentiful, not only between Caitriona and myself but with the other participants. We were in amongst the marathoners, the 10k and the Ultra runners. Everyone feeling exactly the same, even if we where all drown rats covered in muck. 

Caitriona’s Geography left a lot to be desired and as we came above the Giants Causeway her reaction was priceless.

 “Is that it?” Yip just a lump of oddly shaped rock. I’m sure if we were at sea level she’d realise the columns are quite big and for a geologist, quite fascinating. And also that is not Scotland over there!

The feed station at just after 9 mile had the world’s best cake. We had been going 3 hours at this point and I’m sure anything would have tasted good, but the cake was immense. 

The cake must have had magical powers. As from there we were able to actually run at pace and I felt like I was finally breaking in. The end was near and it was just a matter of making it in 1 piece. With 1 tricky decent at 11 mile, we were soon on the railway track.

I didn’t care anymore and ran straight through the puddles. Caitriona wasn’t impressed by my excessive dancing in the puddles as I was splashing her whilst I prance like an eejit. So my singing and dancing at Lisburn Half drove her away and then my puddle dancing at Causeway may result in me not having someone to run with ever again . 

As we came across the board walk pitching the GR8 club race to fellow runners as a ‘Smaller version of Causeway Coast.’ We could see what looked like the support crew on the hill. 

One last hill and as I got to the top, I was delighted to take Caitriona by the hand and cross the line with her. True to my word,we done it together, right to the bitter end.

Final hill to the finish

With a quick trip to the bus to make it to Portrush for dinner, I tried my best to wash the muck off me with baby wipes and change my clothes. A beautiful dinner and a well deserved drink was had whist everyone tried to come to terms with what we had just put ourselves through. 

The bus journey home was to be fun. We had a “few” drinks to make the journey home that bit more easier on the sore bodies, purely medicinal. There was plenty of ice for not only drink but for an ice bath..thanks Brendan! 

We got off in Newcastle and headed to the Donard Bar for a few sociables whilst not in transit. Craic was mighty and was a perfect end to the day.

A big shout out to the team of supporters who came along and kept us full of positive thoughts and were there to support us during the race and also at the bar. 

However I know I’d have never made it through this race injury free without Caitriona. She worried more about where my feet where going than hers. She kept me sane and in craic throughout the race. We technically verbally wrote this blog at 8 mile. She chased me up every hill shouting to “drive drive drive” but best of all I was delighted to see that she beat me, it’s been a long time coming and for the results to have her name before mine was a poetic finish to the race. 2 seconds is 2 seconds. 

My poor trainers this morning

In the aftermath of the race, for about 10 minutes, I was never doing this race again. However today, with my broken body, sore shoulder and fresh hope that the sun might shine on the North Coast someday, I’m looking forward to next year’s “Away” race. It can’t get any worse than yesterday…can it?

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

It could be said that some runners would have been wiser eating grass than running on Saturday morning. With rain coming from every direction and Silent Valley resembling a bad day in Mordor, the hardcore runners took to the start line of Born 2 Runs, Dambusters Half Marathon whilst the fair weather runners rolled over in their beds.

Let’s face it, I made a point of running through every storm that the alphabet threw at me this year. Even running like a mad woman through the burst banks of the lake and the floods running down the mountains. So I’m not one to fear the wind and rain but I do detest beginning a run in the rain. 

You see the issue with this race was simple. It was in the middle of the Mourne Mountains. The part of the land that has a weather climate all to itself.  So if it’s sunny and lovely at sea level you can bet your ass it’s lashing rain and gale force winds up the mountain. 

As Michael drove up the Slievenaman Road towards Silent Valley the clouds began to decend upon us. It felt like a trip to a race during the winter series not in the middle of August. Yet after collecting our registration packs the mist lifted and hopes grew that it might actually dry up. 

Dambusters is not your average half marathon.  Some would say that it would count towards more like 15/16 miles in your legs than 13. It offers elevation of over 1000ft over multi terrain in what is essentially the heart of the Mournes. 

The elevation map

We boarded buses to the start line that was 3 mile outside of the park. I was full of mixed emotions. I have proven that I can run 13 mile, I don’t mind a few good hills, I love the mountains abeit walking them but I was doing this on a day that holds some strong memories for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up emotionally.

I did have Michael to one side of me and Caitriona to the other. I was sporting some fantastic bling on my shoes also that Caitriona had got made for me for inspiration for Dublin. She couldn’t have nailed it any better. 

Caitriona was gearing up for her second half marathon which she was gently convinced to do as I owed her money and thought I’d put it to good use and sign her up. I thought after Lisburn she learnt her lesson to not listen to me but seems not and she was along for the ride again.

As the runners embraced the steady climb up the Carrigenagh Road, the rain began to pour. It was a small field of 200 runners so it didn’t take long for Caitriona and I to own the back of the pack. You see the thing about doing any distance is to run your own race. Being able to ignore those in front of you speeding off, ignoring the cars, medical team or police behind you crawling along slowly and have the self believe in your legs to make the distance is what you need to succeed. And boy do Caitriona and I know how to do that and do it well. 

After a mile we gradually split from eachother. I was determined to make it to Silent Valley without stopping to walk. I knew there was at least 300ft of a gradual climb to there so took it slow and made it within my time frame. Yet I spotted a familiar body in the distance. It would have been too much of a coincidence for two people to be wearing exactly the same gear, it was Micheal.

I have serious respect for anyone to drop out of a race. They’ve paid the money, geared themselves up for the race and took to the line. He wasn’t the first body I’d seen drop out, even in this race. Someone barely made 1 mile. But to know it’s just not worth putting your body through everything and accepting a DNF, I’ve the upmost respect. 

When I reached him I knew he’d already debated carrying on with me and decided even that would be a bad idea and he called it quits and saved his knee from any further injury. To say I was gutted was an understatement with DCM 10 weeks away, I hope it’s something that doesn’t hinder training for him or I’ll have to listen to him the WHOLE way round. The plan was suppose to be; do the marathon to get away from eachother!

Anyway, I carried on and reached the reservoir where I was greeted by fellow MAC Clare on marshalling duties, cue photo above. It was clear that the 10k was about to kick off so I needed to get up the path to the dam as far as I could before being flanked by the 10kers. As I progressed, the leaders of the HM passed me and support was aplenty either way from me to them and them to me. Strangely a few of the faces where familiar ones from Cookstown and also some of the MAC crew showing off that they’d already been up and down the hill I still had to face. They weren’t really showing off..I was just jealous they’d a big hill under their belt already.

I spotted the tree. A lonely tree that sits on a corner like the middle of a roundabout. I knew around the corner I was going to be faced with “that hill” the hill I had familiarised myself with a few weeks ago. I kept the head up and set my sights on the foot of Ben Crom Dam. The water was gushing out of it with all its might and as refreshed faces made their way back down the hill after surviving the climb and enjoying the water station at the top…I wanted to be like them. So digging in, I got to the top and reached what was essentially the half way point of the race.

The next 3 mile was pebble dashed by all types of rain. Rain from the left, rain from the right. Rain that came at you and rain that jumped up off the ground. The surrounding and usually dynamic landscape was immersed in mist and the rain rolled down the valley. 

The hope of a tailwind never appeared and at 9 mile I looked to my right to see people running across the mountain. That couldn’t be right! I knew the end was trail but a mountain? I reached into my hydration belt and pulled out the gel.  My normal powerbar sweets where not going to cut it at this point. As I turned and broke away from the 10k, a much needed hug from Clare at that point helped me pull my emotions together to tackle the end. 

I ran across the front of the Reservoir I spotted Brendan on the final stretch of his 10th half marathon and he was making great time. It was like his high five had special powers and I entered the forest with gusto.  

To be honest I felt like a fairy lost in the glen. I was very alone but comfortably so. You could hear rain drops fall from the trees and your feet crunching on the path. I was nearly ready to put a complaint on my list when I saw the water station packing up and you know how I feel about that, luckily they where able to muster together a glass for me and remind them that I wasn’t last so to hang on.

The next mile passed by and I kept saying to myself I’ve only a lap of the lake to go so motor on. However mile 11 happened, a mountain happened at mile 11. In the approach to the climb, I was met by organiser Jane bracing horrendous rain, which by now I didn’t even notice anymore, she coached me along the straight to the foot of the hill and I took on that hill like my life depended on it. One thing about this climb was…what went up, definitely was going to coming back down. Through a track that was essentially 1 big puddle I knew if I just kept steady I’d come in well below my 3hr aim. 

Down the mountain I came and onto the flat again. I could see the finish line downhill and waved at what was clearly Michael and some other MAC folk waiting for me. That’s one thing I can say about the club. They know to hang about for you to finish and cheer you home.

The last km was fIlled with pure relief. I seen the 13 mile sign and then the finish line. I knew I had the sprint finish in me and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I glanced at my watch to see a 2hr 44. 2 minutes faster than Lisburn and only 2 minutes slower than Cookstown on what was a desperate and challanging course. I was delighted.

Not far behind me, Caitriona graced the front of the Dam and came across the line with a smile plastered right across her face with a half pb!  What an achievement.

What was even more of an achievement was that we didn’t come last either…ok we where 3rd and 2nd last respectively but that still isn’t last…give me a cheer!! Wohoo!

Soaked right through to our knickers, we celebrated with Brendan on a series full house. We took our sodden feet to the car and headed for the hot tub and showers at the Burrendale. 

My feet where wrinkly, the blister on my hand had the top layer of skin peel off and my sock line separated the clean skin from the dirty skin. But I felt so badass. Definitely running in the rain makes a race twice as great to finish.

So for now, I’ll sit and admire the medal…a very nice one with the mountains and the Dam on it and remember everything that was thrown at me during that race. Ok I did cry twice during the race but I was working through the thoughts in my head that plagued me from 4 years previous. I remembered that the same determination and belief that I acted on that day got me through a challanging part of my life, is in fact the same determination and belief that got me through that race- seems it’s something that I’m sure is embedded in me now. 

There is no challange too big, not a complete life upheaval, not a half marathon in questionable conditions and landscapes or a full marathon.

10 weeks to go…

Murlough AC. ..MAC the smiliest club in the country

Thank you to Mervyn Mc Keown for the fantastic action shot mid race. Looking for the race pictures is my favourite post race ritual www.mysportsphoto.uk

And to Clare Murnin for enduring all that rain and providing the mugshots of all the Mac team in the collage above


Catch yourself on Siobhan!

Catch yourself on Siobhan!

I woke up this morning to get up for my usual 7am Wednesday morning session at The Burrendale with Shane. The alarm went at 6.20am and it was like an outer body experience. The voice in my head was floating above me telling me that I needed to catch myself on. I was not fit for it.

The voice was right, I had really pushed the boundaries last week and my body was about to give up. So I reluctantly messaged Shane to say I was broken and resorted to feeling sorry for myself and reflecting on why it was taking me so long to recover after Cookstown half when I bounced back after Lisburn half.

So on reflection this is how last week went…

Sunday 24th July – Active Financial Newry and Mourne Womens Mini Marathon

You can read about the race here. I went out to PB and done so at every distance minus the 30sec I couldn’t find to make it a 10k pb. So I had mentally and physically pushed myself to my limits on a course that was very challenging.

Monday 25th July

I wish I could remember what I had done that day as I’m definitely sure I wasn’t at the gym, or out running as my Garmin would have picked that up. So I am going to settle on drinking tea (probably at Moiras), being on facebook and snapchat whilst the kids where at Summer Scheme. So essentially a rest day.

Tuesday 26th July

Ahhh what a cracker day was had. Set off after dropping the kids at Summer Scheme with my lunch in the backpack and away I went with Lauren to check out the Dambusters route. I was still a bit sore and achey from Sunday but no running was involved, it was refreshing as Lauren had busted herself at the gym too so we were a right state between us. We walked all the way up to Ben Crom dam and assessed strategies for the race and how to best deal with it on the day. As well as how lovely a route it is going to be as long as the rain stays away. We covered about 9 mile that day, obviously there was the usual craic and banter along side our solutions to world problems.

That evening I was in with Patricia McGrady to get a sports massage and boy does she know how to work those nasty lumps and bumps. I have decided to put her in the same category of Shane, Dermot and all other PTs, job satisfaction comes from pushing people to their limits. But totally worth it for the client! ( I get it, its just unpleasant at times)

Wednesday 27th July

Wednesday was my session at the gym with Shane, with various squats, lunges, intervals, weights and comparing notes on training plans. I just always know that after death hour with Shane, I will suffer the next two days.

Thursday 28th July

I hadn’t planned to, but I ended up at Dermots final session with MAC. I was only going to stay for the warm up and do a lap of the lake, but I stayed on as I didn’t want to leave someone on their own in a pair and although I felt like I was going to die at several points of the session, I learnt a lot and dare I say, enjoyed it.

Friday 29th July

I knew I should have been resting at this point for Sunday. However opening the curtains on Friday morning the sky had Friday Funday written all over it. So Lauren and I done the usual, picked a spot with no plan in mind other than to keep going until we run out of path.

For all the blue skies and endless views, there was a cloud following me on that hike up from Letirim Lodge. Lauren is leaving for London next month to do her PGCE. I am bloody delighted for her don’t get me wrong, we worked hard for this, but I lose a great friend who would happily get lost with me in the mountains at a moments notice. Not that easy to do when she’s across the water. So when we reached the end of the path, high on a hill with the most beautiful views I have encountered yet, I sat and cried. Little did Lauren know when she was taking this picture of me that behind the sunglasses I was crying.

Saturday 30th July

I did rest!

Sunday 31st Cookstown Half Marathon

You’ll find all the details on the events of Cookstown half here. I had pushed myself to a 4 minute PB and obviously 13.1 mile takes a lot out of you.

So…

Yeah I know, I know. I have over done it. Its not like I have the body of a super athlete who would laugh at the fact I am beat out after last weeks events which probably look like a walk in the park to them. Last week was pretty intense, with the CHM hanging over me all week and the various things I got myself into no wonder this morning I couldn’t motivate myself.

In true fashion as I’ve come to expect and respect, I got the brutal, honest and with love telling off from Selena to remind me that I need to give myself time to recover, to recharge and to stop “running” on half empty. So I’ll listen to her and I will take a few more days to fully recover. Then I will be a better runner all round as I’m fully ready to run. Also I guess the fact I am sporting a lovely cold sore too also points to the fact I need to chill.

So taking this all on board… my house is really clean now.

Where I do most the blog writing. .but today not surrounded by mess

 

 

 

 

 

Just get me past 3 mile

Just get me past 3 mile

I had an epiphany yesterday whilst running Cookstown Half Marathon, if I can get past 3 mile I am home in a boat.

Lets briefly rewind.

I signed up to Cookstown Half Marathon after doing Lisburn Half, which if you look back at the race report here you can recap on my unhappiness. Although I had had a cracker of a first half marathon physically and mentally, there were various different parts of the organisation and execution of Lisburn that failed to meet the standards required in my book for equality and inclusion. So on signing up to CHM I did contact Eamonn, the main man in charge, to let him know how Lisburn could have improved and what mistakes not to make, but he was already very aware and reassured me that I would not feel like I did at Lisburn.

CMH from the outset marketed itself on inclusion. To me that meant that not only did the race welcome those with varying disabilities, such as assisted running teams and blind runners and guides, but to all runners, those who are elite runners to the forever back runners, like myself.

Of course I signed up to the race alongside Michael without even knowing anything about the route or Cookstown for that matter. Well the next day I came across the elevation chart and thought to myself…what was I thinking? It looked like hill after hill after hill. Luckily I like a good hill or 20!

Being fresh from surgery and recovery well under way 2 weeks afterwards, I had 3 weeks to get myself together. I headed out for a long run on the 8th July and those 10miles where the longest I ran until the day. I did have 3 10k races in the middle including Shore 10k, Sea 2 Sky and the Womens Mini Marathon which where not short of a few hills themselves, training with the club and also time spent wisely at the gym. So nerves where high when race day rolled around after a failed 10miler the previous week had knocked my confidence.

Team MAC, (L-R)Brendan, Wendy, me, Michael

The sun shone down on us at the start line. Finding our destination, getting parked and picking up our registration packs was no problem. With our race packs we picked up our lovely yellow technical t-shirts, free energy gel and a fab reusable bag. A woman can never have too many bags and all that!

As the runners came together at the start line I came across the same familiar faces from other races in the past few months. I love this about running, I spotted the lady I had spent most of the mini marathon chasing , the other members of neighbouring clubs who you always see and of course sharing the pre race nerves with new people also.

I won’t lie, I checked the watch just before we started and my bmp was clocking 174. I was in heart attack zone before I even started! I think the next for me was passing out on the spot. Shortly, we where off and flanked by all the runners I made my way out of the arena to face the 13.1 mile ahead.

The lovely 1k downhill start was overshadowed by the fact on the way back we had to make our way up that hill to the finish line. By the 1 mile mark we had embarked on the first of many, many hills. I have never known a main street to seem so long and hilly. I had the dreaded thoughts of wondering where I was going to find the miles, why was I even doing this and my usual “who’s bright idea was this” obviously another one of my great notions. The good thing was that the town was busy, plenty of support, a water stop with jelly beans (never too early in a race for jelly beans) and that kept me going. By 3 mile though my head turned on me. People talk about the wall in long races, for me it was the wall being bulldozed down. Exactly the same stage as last weeks mini marathon, I relaxed into the race and began to enjoy myself. Knowing you’ve only 10 mile to go is a lot nicer than thinking gosh I’ve 13 to go.

Tackling the first hill with a smile

At this point we had went into the countryside and the pressure of people watching was long gone. I had seen the race route before hand and knew there would be an overlap of the runners passing the front runners. By the time I reached the start of this the leaders had already been through, me at 5 mile, them at 7! Yet it was the most fantastic thing that could have happened in the race. I always thought the really fast people where so focused on their race that they wouldn’t even acknowledge someone else on the road. Well I was wrong. In normal Siobhan fashion I did shout encouragement and smile at them. However the positive support and encouragement that they gave me was overwhelming. There’s me, the most unnatural runner in the world, plodding along and the “super athletes” cheering me on. I swear it was such a boost.

I did hope to see some of my Murlough team mates at this point but as I turned off onto the road to loop around I seen the 1.45 pacer and knew I’d miss them. As I reached the half way mark I’d well and truly found myself and my pace. I knew I was homeward bound and my race plan was on point time wise.

What I think I loved about this race was that I was always within reach of someone. Lisburn was so lonely with ample empty roads with no support and no runners near me, yet I pretty much spent the second half of the race playing cat and mouse with Tony Barclay and his guide Karen. They made the toughest point of the race go by smoothly for me. A total gentleman and great runner who literally held my hand as we went through the 8 mile mark. “Never leave a man behind” he told me and encouraged me to pace him in front to keep momentum. As I entered into the final 3 mile I glanced down. I knew Michael would be near finished and again still hitting 10mile at the 2hour mark as planned. The “I can walk 5k in 45 mins” kicked in and knew I had to pick up the pace in the next 2 mile to deal with that final hill.

The legend that is Tony Barclay and his guide runner Karen

On the homeward bound stretch the heavens opened, it was like it had waited for me. I love running in the rain and did feel as if it meant to be, just in time to allow all the elite through bone dry and to cool down the runners still out there. Another water stop, positive support from the marshalls and the PSNI, beeps from runners in their cars and shouts from passers by. It was a fantastic atmosphere.

Still smiling at 11.5mile 

The hill in mile 12 lay ahead of me. I remembered everything that Dermot Mathers had said at coaching on Thursday and kept the head up and focused on the top aiming to pass the girls in front of me, which I done. As I reached the final hill I dug deep (not with my feet but with the arms, thanks Dermot) and the hill breezed by allowing me the final straight sprint to the end. I seen the finish line and the timer and couldn’t believe it. Coming over the line I stopped my watch and there it was a 4 minute PB over Lisburn. I have no idea where it came from but it was there.

If the watch says it…It must be true

Michael and Brendan where there at the end waiting for me with a much needed hug and finally getting a glimpse of “that” medal. I swear if the girl had put it round my neck at that point, I’m sure I would have hit the floor. It was more of a plaque than a medal. But I’m not complaining, I earned it!

With plenty of sandwiches, water, bananas, complimentary protein milk, I cant fault the end, even all the railings where still up and unlike my last experience I finished the race feeling no less important than those who came first. Treated equally and feeling fully included right to the moment I was going home.

The post race glow

So to Eamonn and the team at CHM, what a job well done. No wonder your numbers have grown 3 fold in 1 year, next year I am sure you will need to order more medals as there is not one thing I can fault about the whole day. You even had the rain come on for me! I hope that you have raised a lot of much needed money for Tiny Life and once all the post race madness has ended that you all sit back and enjoy a nice gla0ss or two of whatever takes you fancy.

 Also if you are available on the 13th August, Tony is hosting “Running Blind 5k/10k” at Stormont. A fabulous race where you run half and your partner runs half blindfolded being guided by eachother. All for a fantastic cause.  Find Out More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you should see in your race photos

Don’t you just love race photos…not!
I had my first half marathon on Wednesday night. It took me 2hrs46. I was near the back of the pack but didn’t care, I knew I could do it in my own good time.
Photos have emerged from the night and at first I cringed. I had done 12.5 mile, 12.5 very very lonely miles at this point and all I could focus on was how my legs looked like tree stumps.
I looked at it again today with a different view…those wee tree stumps are filled with determination, they are relentless, they carried my 14stone body 13.1 mile, they are full of power and strength. They kept going to the end and held me up in the queue in mcdonalds afterwards as I waited for a strawberry milkshake which was better than the tea and toast after labour.
They might not look pretty and I’m stuck with them however they did a mighty fine job on Wednesday night and I salute them!

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The First Half; from a backrunners perspective

Sitting here with my Finishers T-shirt on, I have been wondering how I would go about detailing the ins and outs of my first half marathon. Of course it came with the usual pre race tears, even tears at the start line. I obviously had the overwhelming feeling of invincibility which has remained right throughout the day and a great nights sleep after it all. However the one thing that sticks with me the most is the fact that it was a very, very lonely race.

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Lisburn Half Marathon was an evening race. I am used to morning races so I had to be sure I fuelled right for the race and didn’t over or under eat. Every mouth full of pasta was a challenge to swallow as butterflies consumed my tummy and even my thoughts. It got to the point that I was struggling to swallow water. I just wanted the race to be over. I had spent weeks worrying about it, strategy, what could go wrong and then of course there were the long runs which differed on performance with good and bad runs.

It was a very humid evening and as much as I tried to be strong and joke pre race, I was broken inside. I knew I could do it, but the task ahead was daunting. I had managed to just about hold it together for the start, which we nearly missed as couldn’t hear announcements.

*At this point I took a break from writing this piece to write a complaint to the race organisers*

I am not one to complain, however the pre race build up was over shadowed by the announcement 48hrs prior to the event about the use of headphones being prohibited which sparked outrage on social media. However by the time the race was underway a whole new host of issues arose and I had to let the organisers know how I was let down and treated as a back runner.

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I set off way too fast at the start but I was pulled by the crowd and I was comfortable enough. Running with Caitriona for the first 3 mile was a pleasure and made the start of the race go in quickly. I am pretty sure my rendition of Taylor Swifts Shake it Off was the turning point when Caitriona decided I should run on and give her head peace. Note to self…don’t sing when other people are about, its how you lose friends. So I pretty much spent the next 10 mile all alone.

I recall the 4 mile mark and thinking to myself, sweet God Almighty I’ve another 9 mile to go. However hats off to the locals and their kids who came out to offer support, run with me and also let me high five them for a bit of encouragement. Without them I would never had made it. I had no idea where I was for most of the race, asking on route whereabouts in the country I actually was.

At 6mile I was horrified by comments by the Marshals. Two young lads as I turned the corner saying this must be the end of them, look at her and they then laughed. There was no one else around me and I looked at myself. OK not the ideal half marathon runner but one striving to be. However I am human and  can hear. I was seething. Luckily I was confident in my ability and pushed out when I could have very easily bowed out and called it a day.

My first 10k came in under the planned time and I was feeling strong but I was very aware that around me there was no one. In front about 50m was a man in back and a girl in front of him who never really left my sight. Behind me I seen no one. I kept hoping Caitriona would come out of no where as at the half way point I began to feel exceptionally lonely. I knew I was hitting half way so only the same to go again, I also knew that at that point the lady winner of the half would be finishing her race. I wondered about everyone else I knew doing the race and how they where getting on. Was Michaels knees holding up, had Tara and Thomas fallen out on route and where they on track for their sub 2 hours, how was the Murlough crew doing?

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The biggest thoughts that consumed my head throughout the race were those of the mathematical kind. My maths is poor at the best of times but I spent most of the race working out my Kilometres into Miles and vice versa. How far had I come and how far to go. Monitoring my fuelling and working out when next to drink. What pace I had to keep to make my aim time and essentially how long my wee legs kept moving.

Mile 10 was the killer for me. I walked like I was on a walk with my mother in law, I glided like there was just air below me and I am pretty sure I was walking faster than I was able to run. Again I had forgotten to remove Coldplays “The Scientist” from my playlist and I was nearly reduced to tears once again as the song reminds me of my Granda. I thought typical that when I was struggling most, he would pop into my head to keep me going. I was nearly for lifting my phone out and calling Selena for company but I was feeling mentally stronger than I had assumed I would and pushed through.

At Mile 11 I was sure there was a water station. There HAD been a water station but at this stage there was just a tap in the ground and 2 men told me I could drink from it as there where no cups. So last water stop, half marathon, participants had been on course for over 2 hours and we were being treated like second class citizens being told to drink straight from a public tap which would involve stopping as they didn’t have enough cups. Scandalous. Also at that point I seen the events media partner Cool FM, entertainment bus doing a 3 point turn to go home, did I not pay the same amount of money as those in front of me to experience the same level of service throughout the race? Apparently not. This has really sat with me and overshadowed my whole experience.

I stood for 7 hours on Saturday at the Mourne Way Marathon being a marshall and I cheered on and presented medals to each and every participant at the end of the event. I was impressed by those who came first however the respect I had for those at the end of the pack was everything I had. As they were relentless in the pursuit for race glory and they deserved more cheering and congratulating than anyone else. They earned the same experience as everyone else.

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I picked up pace after 11 mile and began to feel that the end was in sight. I spotted the Toys R US store in the distance and knew the last mile started around that direction. As I turned onto the main road I caught up with the woman I’d been chasing the whole race. I powered on past her and as I approached the hill at the final km, I seen a familiar outline of Michael standing on the brow of the hill. I was never so glad to see him. Although I had made him promise that he wouldn’t come back for me, I had been so lonely the whole race and I was dying to speak to him. As I picked up pace into the final km, I chatted and found out about the way his race went, he filled me in on Tara and Thomas making a sub 2 hour and let me know what lay ahead in the final 500m.My last 2km where 2 of my fastest kms.

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As we turned the corner there was the remaining Murlough crowd waiting for me and Caitriona to take on the final stretch of the race. I recall just shouting, “I am actually going to do this.” Michael left me at 250m to go and I found the power in my legs to push and came through the barriers up to the finish line where Michael had taken a short cut to meet me at the line.

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That beep was an unbelievable sound to hear and I fell into his arms. Yet again I was shocked that there was no marshalls there to greet me, to show me the way to getting medals or water. I looked around and everyone was clearing up and few supporters waiting on their friends to finish. If I didn’t have Michael there I wouldn’t have known where to go to get my medal or hand my chip back. I was empty, totally emotionless. Feeling that I was an inconvenience to them as they wanted to get home. Lacked the expected feeling of achievement and invincibility which I had imagined.

A few minutes later Caitriona turned the corner and the Murlough crew ran with her to the line. I was so proud of her. I know that I twisted her arm to part take in the race, I knew how hard it was on her mentally and physically and the tears that rolled down her face afterwards where tears of accomplishment in the face of a very lonely struggle. I was just so glad that she had realised the extent of her ability that I had seen and pushed right through to the end.

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I guess on reflection and reading back my outlook on the race, I should be in foul form and pissed off with they way the race organisers managed the event. Yet in amongst the bad management, I ran 13.1 mile.

I didn’t give up, I never felt like giving up either. I felt mentally strong (probably why the upsets along the course didn’t deter me from finishing) I was still moving and boy did I nearly murder that strawberry milkshake afterwards. I feel elated and glad I have written to the organisers to voice my thoughts. Hopefully they have something worth saying to me in reply to it.

 

But for now… I am Siobhan Grant…half marathoner.

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My first half…the big countdown begins

When I started the training on my rocky road to Dublin I knew I’d to hit huge distances 4 times that of what I was currently doing.

In the past 10 weeks I have progressed well and had some really shitty runs thrown in there for good measure.
However we are now less than a week away from my first big training milestone…my first half marathon.

Opting for the flat and fast urban half of Lisburn, it is 6 days until I have to force myself through all 13.1mile.

I’ll be honest I’ve enjoyed my long runs aside from them lasting forever and being unable to achieve much the rest of the day afterwards. They have been very slow and very steady. I can run for the majority of the distance and I’m getting good at the fuelling aspect of a long run with my lucozade sport and powerbar caffeine sweets recommended to me by my friend Caroline who has just completed VLM that I take every 5k.

I know I CAN do it and I know I WILL do it but I am filled with dread. What happens if it is one of those bad running days?

I have an irrational fear of coming last anyway in every race and based on last year’s times I’d be in the last 10. That I can cope with and I’ve made Michael promise that he will ensure that the finish line isn’t taken down until I cross it.

Even now I’m getting palpitations thinking about it.

I’ve to now consider my diet and liquid intake over the weekend and not let my head win. I want to rest but not too much so I can’t get going on the night
Does everyone feel like this before a big race? With my first 10k I was nervous but this is unhealthy. I’ve cried so much about the race and even though I know my wee legs can get me there it’s the fact I may be running 3 hours in order to achieve it.

I do love that I broke Caitriona and she’s joining me at Lisburn half. It’ll be her first half too and this is pay back for her encouraging me to do my first 10k. We are a similar pace and going through the same emotions so not totally alone. Lucky thing is she probably hates me as much as I do myself for signing up to this.

All tips for coping with the build up much appreciated

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Caitriona and I at club run on Tuesday

New week, new goals

With Easter now in the past and the kids returning to school, I am filled with motivation, self promise and new hope for getting my ass in gear.

I have been looking at the calander with a lot of thought being put into my illusive first half marathon race.

With potentially 10 weeks to build the miles up until mid June. I need to start digging deep and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  Let’s face it the next 6 months will be all about stretching myself that bit further and I think mentally reaching 13.1 mile before the summer starts is a huge boost to my marathon training.

However I want my first half to be epic. Regardless at what way you look at it, 13.1mile is 13.1 mile and a huge HUGE achievement. Yet I have been looking at the race calander and have 2 options.

Lisburn Half
Predominantly flat road race which will be a horrendously boring urban course.

OR

Mourne Half
A mix of trail and road race across the foothills of the Mourne Mountains. Challanging would be an understatement and between the weather and the terrain you could very easily end up injured beyond repair

Now let’s weigh it up. They are both 13.1 mile and will obviously get a pb regardless as it’s my first and the all important medal and kudos for doing a half.
So do I play safe and do Lisburn where it might not be the most scenic race but less chance of rolling stones under foot and catching a death in what can be disastrous weather conditions.
Or do I man up so to speak and take on the mass elevation, good country air and take on a course across the mountains.

I know what I’d advise someone marathon training to do and there will always be other chances to do the more daring routes. It’s so hard to shy away from a challange but maybe for once I should put my inner desire to push the limits over 13.1 mile and just survive the 13.1 mile on road in Lisburn.