Tag: run mummy run

DCM17 the tale of the 34minute PB

DCM17 the tale of the 34minute PB

Christmas Day 2016: 

M: Siobhan what have you bought now? -as he does his daily check up on online banking.

S: Happy Christmas I entered you into Last One Standing Ultra and since you seemed to ‘forget’ to get me something this year we’re both signed up to DCM17 too.

Roll on a lot more miles.

If you had said to me just over 2 months ago that I’d be sitting after DCM with a 34 minute marathon PB which included within it a clean sweep of distance PBs from 15k and the illusive sub 5.30. I’d have told ya to wise up.

But hey no need to wise up as that is the reality I have today. My heart has been set on DCM17 since I crossed the finish line last year. I’ve completed Derry marathon, Knockagh Ultra and since June have gained significant 5k/10k/half PBs. How? 

The dcm17 stats

I wanted to be a better runner and the only way to do that is… run! And I ran a hell of alot. Was it all personal motivation? Definitely not! There were days I cursed the schedule, where I didn’t want to run, when I just had enough. But I had made a promise. I promised to try my best and in return Dermot promised he’d get me in the right place for an assault on DCM by setting up my training schedule weekly.

The one thing which always sat with me through the whole training phase was never once did it say on the schedule the exact pace I should be running. I fell in love with this concept. This was me taking ownership of what I wanted and worked to my goal. Of course Dermot knew I wanted the sub 5.30 and we both knew that was 12.30 min/miles the whole way. But it was me who set that target and planned my sessions to reflect on that instead of him dictating exactly what I should be doing. Many a time my anger and upset was because I missed that target because of something or other but also elation on days when I was able to nail it.

Last year it was my first marathon. So expectations where low and the aim was to start and finish. I had trained in some shape or form but knew I’d be luckily to make 6hours. Now don’t get me wrong I’d the best craic round Dublin and crossed the line in 6.02. Now as much as I’d achieved my goal, that 2 minutes killed me. I knew if I’d not stopped to hug everyone and take pictures I’d have got that sub 6. I just got caught up in the moment and the whole event that I didn’t care during the race. 

However my running has come on leaps and bounds since June when I blew up at Derry marathon and I began to believe I was capable of better. I began to train harder and on completing Knockagh I knew 26.2 mile was wee buns in comparison. It was just a question of how to get there quicker…this is where shit got real. Enter the training schedule. My times improved, my running form improved and my ability to run without stopping was clearly becoming second nature over any distance.

My confidence grew and after Annaghmore I knew I was within reach of the sub 5.30. It was mad to think that I could knock over half an hour off my time. But the stats added up. However in the 2 weeks before DCM I got 3 worrying niggles which wouldn’t subside and had to hope rest would save the day alongside spending a lot of time with Grainne working on said areas.  It really knocked me. No matter how many times I heard you’ve done all the hard work relax, I couldn’t. I’d worked so hard and I could see the dream slipping away and even at that I’d convinced myself that it was going to be a close call having nightmares of 5.30.01 as my finishing time.

Roll on race day

It was a fine October morning in Dublin…too fine if you ask me. The hotel was hiving at breakfast as I relaxed and enjoyed a lovely breakfast, I glanced across the room I spotted some of the Newcastle A.C. crew getting in the zone. I didn’t feel one bit of nerves. For the first time the whole training phase, I was calm and in control. I have to admit a few early morning messages did get me all teary but I was immensely proud of so many friends who had also worked hard, driven by their own stories and reasons for being there and together we were all hoping to kick ass. 
As we set off for the starting area Kenny was well hyped up and ready for action. A vision in yellow and red – a contrast to last year’s red and black that we both wore on race day. Though race vests aside he’s kept an eye out for me over the past year and I’d promised to not take any mid-race selfies this year to save time. Turned out neither did he as he knocked 12 minutes off his time this year. 

Being filed around the starting area to baggage drop was well handled and I thankfully wasn’t picked for a random bag search. I’d have had fun explaining the tin of vodka and diet coke and a riverrock bottle of vodka in the bag with only a jacket.

Moving along we bumped into some familiar faces. Janet and Michael from OR and Sean Looby as again this year he took to the start of DCM.

Toilet queues where mad but we’d left enough time to get using them and it wasn’t long before we began moving to the start line. My phone buzzed to say Alan and Kenny had crossed the line and that was my cue to turn the Wi-Fi off and game face well and truly on.

Sadly Caitriona hadn’t been feeling the best the past few days and we agreed that if anything happened to any of us, our watches allowed for text messages to come through so to let us know. Caitriona made it to 7 mile before she made the tough call to pull out. Devastated for her though I was relieved when I got the message as I went through Phenoix Park. 26.2 mile is rotten when in full fitness never mind whilst not feeling well. 

So deja-vu all over again, kissed Michael good luck but told him this time, I’ll see you around 3 and we were off. Again a few familiar faces passed in the early stages including comments like ‘I thought you where never running again after Knockagh.’ Brenda had opted to stick with me in the early stages of the race. I was grateful for her being there to keep me focused and also helped drive her on too. 

Mile 1: ah here we go again and by half a mile in I was already ready to break every set of clappers round Dublin. It was a busy first few mile but I saw plenty of smiley supporters even if they didn’t see me! Yes Lorraine I saw you and your groovy hat!

Mile 2: gosh it’s warm. Passed Janet Mooney and gave her abuse for stopping for pictures mid race. She did say come on get in but my immediate reaction was ‘Dermot Mathers would have my head on a plate if he saw me in a picture mid race

Mile 3: I should really take more water on board. But hey Pheonix park is ahead and I’ll rein it in. Brenda is still with me and we both comment that Michael made the right call to run without his vest and just his compression top it was a lot warmer than anyone had anticipated. 

Mile 4: look there’s Joe and Tony. The 4 of us have a running hug and we wish them well and on their way 

Mile 5: Brenda is leaving me 😢😢😢 I’m on my own now, for how long, god knows.

Mile 6: a much needed shout out and high 5 from Brendan, Anne and Shona from MAC. 

Mile 7: Castleknock by far the best part of the marathon. I’m well ahead of my pace band and begin to start telling myself to start to think more about the long game. I may be comfortable at 7 mile but could be a different story at 17.

Mile 8: it’s so easy to tell when a pacer is near, you seem all alone and the people spread out then all of a sudden you hear the thud of the steps and chatter of the large group. I moved over to let the 4.30 pacers past. This time last year it was the 5hour pacer passing me so I was improving at this point.

Mile 9: much needed hug from Caroline and checking in how she was doing. Ive just received word through that Caitriona had pulled out. 😕

Mile 10: Already?? That was quick…yeah watch confirms my suspicions I’m going quicker than I ever have. This is not good marathon practice Siobhan! For once I should listen to my own advice.

Mile 11: First time I walked the whole race. I walked Ballyfermot hill but got stuck straight back in, 15 more mile to the next beer stop sign made me laugh. 15 mile isn’t far is it? 

Mile 12: Spotted by Brendas mum and dad and got such a group hug from them. Kinda wish I’d parents who’d make the journey to stand and cheer me on at such an occasion. But no time to talk and pushed on up the hill to the bright green arch saying HALF WAY

Mile 13: booya! Half distance! Oh shit if that’s not a half pb I’m literally seconds off it. Kick myself for being a complete tosser and hope I dont pay for it later on.also inform those around me for a bit of a laugh that guess what… the winners are finished. Did wonder how Alan was doing and how close to the end he was…on hindsight he wasn’t too far away! 

Mile 14: ah I remember these next 3 mile the miles of – Yeah half way but ack shit I’ve still so long to go. This is where I started to find bodies along the side of the road. People stretching, those who wanted to give up and locals trying to encourage runners back onto the road.

Mile 15: Met Noreen from Jog Moira we put in this long straight mile together. With it being her first she wanted to know for it get easier after 20…and not one to be brutally honest I told her it is fecking awful. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best and all that.

Mile 16: I had taken on board an extra gel as I hadn’t planned for the heat to effect me as much. The wee man at 16 looked at me weirdly when I lifted 3 gels and shoved them into my pocket. 21 mile was a long way away lol

Mile 17: I’ve now resorted to lifting 2 bottles of water at the water stops. One to drink there and then and one to carry along the way. It was around 12.30 and for once I wanted the Sun in Ireland to go away. The South Africians beside me laughed as I ranted at the sun. Of course they would have to love the heat. 

Mile 18: I meet Natalie from a running group I’m a part off, Run Mummy Run. We agree that we have to stop meeting each other at dcm and maybe meet for a drink instead of putting ourselves through this.

Mile 19: I’m bang on target with a few minutes to spare. I bump into Team Kerr and delighted to see them back on the road. It was only right I got an Aaron hug and admired the new racing chair which they had made to get them back on the road.

Mile 20: And the race begins. I know exactly what is ahead and at this point I am very lonely. Yes I’m surrounded by hundreds. But my head is lonely and I know I’ve 10k to do in 1hr20. I begin revisiting my worst 10ks… minnowburn and seas2sky where all similar times. But I had this. I kept telling myself to just keep moving. As I knew I was beginning to mentally sabotage my own race.

Mile 21: Gearing up for heartbreak hill and stuff another few gels in my pocket. The ground was sticky from the previous runners and felt like the backs of my legs where being pulled apart. So moved to the other side of the road to avoid sticky ground.

Mile 22: Last year it was Faithless’ Insomnia playing, this year it was Cotton Eye Joe as I climbed heartbreak hill. I was beginning to struggle. I knew I had the pb in the bag but what side of 5.30 was it going to be. Then I was joined by Donna. Donna and I met around mile 20 last year in DCM and have put many miles in together over the past year. She gave me the kick I needed. She was headed for a 5.15 and I knew if I kept her in sight for as long as I could I’d get there under the 5.30.  

Mile 23: parkrun to go! And I still had Donna in my sights. I had hit bang on my second pacing band so I had no room for error over the next 3 mile. I kept telling myself to keep my shit together.

Mile 24: I just need to get this mile over me where the hell is the RDS! I know when I’m there I’ve only a mile to go. I’m not tried, nothing is sore there’s just some miscommunication between my head and my feet. But I’m moving forward and I focus on all the signs. A fella beside me is telling me he was with the 4.50 pacers but cramped. I was filled with memories of Derry and how awful it was to have my race slip away. I couldn’t let that happen to me. 

Mile 25: Its wall to wall people from here to the finish though people shouting it’s only 800m to go from here at just past the mile sign makes 800m go on forever. Hitting the real 800m I glanced at my watch. I’ve 7 minutes to make it sub 5.30. As I pick myself up I look around and there are friends and family running with people in tears and shouts of encouragement from those who had finished.

Out of the corner of my eye I spot Caitriona. She had come to the finishing straight to cheer us home. I was bursting with admiration for her. At that point I dug deep and pushed on. 

Mile 26: I saw the finish line and as I looked up at the clock I wasn’t sure did it say 5.29.50 or 5.28.50 so I belted down the green carpet to see it had just turned 5.29.00 I had did it. I literally jumped over the line. Photos not flattering at all. Also should have remembered that I didn’t start at the front of the wave. So official time was 5.28.27

The worlds worst finishing photo

The celebrations

It was an immediate case of take my phone out to tell the world before even collecting my medal. First a message to Dermot, and as my phone kicked in messages from Jennifer and Laura Jane came through- crazy marathon tracking stalkers lol

I was able to check times of those I was tracking and saw Michael had made great time too. I picked up my medal and as a marshal stuck his hand out to congratulate me I burst into tears. Such a big hug was required. So to avoid being a total creep I gathered myself got my t-shirt and could see Michael waiting at the end of the path. 

Who cares that I had just ran a marathon I ran full speed towards him and nearly knocked him down- had forgot he had just ran a marathon too and might not have been too steady oops. As we round the corner we bump into the master of hugs himself Joe. We’d shared many passing hugs in training and now at the end of the marathon here we were finished and would be rude not to have another hug.

Heading down to bag drop I check in on Brenda and she is nearing the end. Looking like a sub 6 and buzzing for her. 

lso come across the dynamic marathon duo of Linda and Jackie and got to share my excitement.

I am Siobhan Grant and I’ve been sober for 28 days of October. Not any more

Auntie Tina messages to tell me congratulations and I’m sure she is very amused by the photo above.

We get into the pub and locate the others. Nicola and Michelle who where chief supporters where delighted to see I was alive and got the sub 5.30. 

I spotted Kenny… My phones dead how did you do?

Super excitement as I jump about telling him about taking 34 minutes off and smashing last year. Word spread amongst the others and I was overwhelmed by the congratulations especially from those runners who do sub 3 hour marathons. Niall King introduced me to everyone as -this girl just took 34minutes of her time. Beat being the Bank Managers wife lol 

In amongst the crew at the pub was a delighted Miley with yet another spectacular run.

I spied Brenda and Caitriona arriving in. Delighted for Brenda and the world’s biggest hug for Caitriona who broke down crying on my shoulder. What an emotional day but my mission was not complete. 

I made up for a month of no drinking and was enjoying the post marathon celebrations. Michael had signalled a few times to go home but always ended up with another pint somehow. 

I wish I could remember this conversation

Finally we made a bee line for some food and no other place to go other than Eddie Rockets. God knows what shape we were in but we did eat and Brenda the world’s best sat nav got us on the right way home.

The best post race shower ever! Zero chaffing. Weeks of torture and methods to reduce chaffing nailed on the day, it was needed. Got out of the shower to find Michael passed out in bed. So something comfortable on and down for a night cap with the girls. 

I didn’t sleep the whole night. I read everything in the news and counted down the hours. My legs where suffering from restlessness and I couldn’t switch off. At 5am I got up and began a few hours of drinking minging Dublin tea. Before finally giving into going for breakfast and heading home.

Body was feeling grand and I still turned up on Monday night to run with the beginners group and get to personally thank Dermot for putting up with my shite and to get everything off my chest about the race.

I like him more than I dislike him- don’t tell him that though!

The aftermath analysis 
So an immense PB.. . I should in theory be buzzing. I am proud of what I achieved but I’m very much all meh about it now. 

I’d never trained for time, actually I’ve never really trained in that way in my life. It was a long aul hog and pressure, expectation and exhaustion throughout does take its toll. I know that I am the only one who held myself accountable and it is nothing anyone around me said or did. So really I’ve only myself to blame. However knowing that was able to turn out sessions like I did was an eye opener to what I can achieve if I work hard. Also it was a confidence boost of epic proportions that I knew I would be knocking on a substantial PB.

I can dissect the race further and have done with Dermot, Michael and the girls. Yes I got what I went in for but there is always room for improvement. It wasn’t the smoothest run of my life. I’ve ran better in training. Also I do think the pressure of the occasion got to me and played havoc with me in the latter stages and don’t start me on the heat. 

It’s also been highlighted to me that I maybe didn’t enjoy DCM as much as any other race as I have been running for the craic so much that when I got serious and focused on a specific time, I lost essentially the essence of what brings me to the start line time and time again. 

So it’s now about finding the balance of what I want from my running in the coming year. I’ve a few ideas and aims for 2018 already set in stone but I want to find that balance where I can continue to improve but also to hold onto the fun element of running. I’m never going to be a podium finisher but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be the best I can. I guess you can’t have it everyway!

For now though I’m recovering well, my body has bounced back and I’m more mentally exhausted than physically. 

So that’s the closure on DCM17. This week will see me hit 1000 miles and with a wee jont out for Run In Dark 10k mid November and the EAMS back2back Half Marathons at the end of December. I need to get fully recovered and stuck back in again in a week or 2. 

 

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The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

The road to the final 26.2 miles of training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home straight now

Home straight now

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

Day 1: Return to Monday Groups with The Running Coaches

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

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

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

Day 2: Tempo Day wasn’t meant to be

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

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

Day 3: Wednesday with the girls

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

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

Day 5 : Long Run Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cotton wool time lads.

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

18 miles of ‘Rolling Hills’ around Annaghmore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting off to the start line

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

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

Aye the biggest understatement of the day

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

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

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

 For the record Caroline took this picture of the Orchard

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

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

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

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

Highlight of the race… Mile 15

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

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

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

Yay for a run that we all were happy with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 miles in 1 week… I didn’t even clock that many miles in the car

38 miles in 1 week… I didn’t even clock that many miles in the car

Ok I’m tired..  like could nap everyday for 20mins tired. Need to actually write that into the training plan in fairness. 

Run 6 miles…nap for 20mins

Run 12mile… nap for 40 minutes

Run 15mile…nap for 1 hour

See that would work well.

So here we are, another week closer and another huge collection of miles under my belt. I’ve had a more positive outlook on my miles this week- I’ve realised I am capable of running lots of them. Running honestly seems to be the only thing going right for me this week considering both my water tank packed in and a leak appeared which meant I’m now sporting 2 holes in my kitchen ceiling. Both not related to eachother just coincidently happened at the same time. When it rains, it pours  (quite literally from my ceiling)

So as you can imagine…running has become my saving grace this week to get out and manage what’s left of my patience.

Day 1: After royally screwing up my run before beginners last week. The important note of AFTER beginners do 4 mile was taken on board. Lovely 2.5 mile with the beginners followed by a jont around Newcastle with Caitriona where we both  aired our frustrations with life. Finishing up in time to cool down with the progressives group who put in a great session on the promenade.

Day 2: Intervals

This was a toughy. Although I like my intervals short and sharp ie no big milages- Dermot likes me to incorporate my intervals into the run where I’m covering a enough miles too, so nice of him isn’t it? So setting out what I worked out to be just short of 4 mile. I got stuck in. Second half of the sets was stronger than my first half. But all in all a great wee session and decided that on Wednesday I’d let the girls get tore into the same session.

Day 3: 5k easy on the plan. Perfect. Ran first mile with the girls and then they set off doing 8 sets of the planned intervals whilst I just aimed to get 5k completed. Sat nicely inbetween Brenda and Caitriona the whole way round as Laura Jane disappeared into the distance. Not too many complaints from them though at the end as they made up the last of the miles. I was being passed from all directions as I stood waiting on them to finish. Was rather amusing.

Day 4: Tempo Thursday. Same as last week and was convinced I’d done something wrong as I was 3 minutes faster than last week. Nope just seems I’ve more faith in what I can do pace wise and maintaining it. Dare I say the plan is working? 

Day 5: Rest Day. Yeah let’s name this day as the day I washed my kitchen floor so many times because of the dirt from the holes in the ceiling. 

Day 6: The Long Run 15miles

Being slightly, ok seriously deflated with life by this stage of the week, had such an impact on my outlook throughout the long run. Setting off at shortly after 7am from 12 Arches (again) I just wasn’t feeling it at all. Although miles where steady, they were all not a patch on the comfort of last week. 

I knew I’d 3 more mile to-do in addition to last week so kept justifying my pace that way. But tears rolled down my face and thankfully the rain did help mask it to a degree. With just the road and me I was feeling so lonely and emotional. At 5 mile I was met by NAC runner Patricia McKibbin out doing a wee intervals set. The brief company was welcomed as even I know I would never be able to match her pace even for a mile but was just enough to keep me going. 6mile was refuel and head off again. Completing the 6 mile in the same time as last week. So although I thought I was struggling, it was predominantly all in my head.

This week I had planned to head in towards Newcastle. I did debate doing the same route again but I was hoping to run into Joe and his crew on their long run so off I headed towards the foot of the mountains.

That’s a God awful stretch into town. Hitting the promenade I came across a few familiar smiley faces out on their Saturday run and with the sun now shining down, a few dog walkers where out and said I said morning a lot. 

With intent to run to Scott on the Rocks I didn’t have the push to take on the minor climb to the harbour so I turned at the spike and subjected myself to another lap of the Slieve Donard Hotel. At 10.5 mile I took a gel before heading back onto the Dundrum Road for the last 3rd of the run.

Always nice to see a friendly face, out popped a car from a drive way and saw it was Aoife in the passenger seat and she waved me on, but her dad didn’t see the mutual runners respect and I near went into the side of the car. Running on, unscathed and a little shaken, a toot from Nicola helped me refocus on the last 4 mile.

Because I had cut Scott on the Rocks out of my route I’d to head back towards Dundrum after passing my car though I’m getting used to the hard shoulder and cyclists being the strange voices I hear approaching – it did really scare the shit out of me last week, no joke.

Finishing the 15 mile I was broken. I was off the pace I wanted as I spent a lot of the run working out times and where I need to be at what stage to get particular times, though it’s a training run and I wasn’t running race pace so I cant overlook that in my thoughts. But I still completed 15mile and didn’t walk at any point. So small victory even if I was totally deflated.

Day 7: Recovery Run

I think even Michael is getting into this training plan. 

Him: Sure we’ll go to the Burrendale for dinner and we can run down and collect the car tomorrow as you’ve a 5k on plan. 

It ended up a solo run for me down the road as kids came home early. After my warm up it cut my distance to 2.7 mile to the Dale but not like I ran out of road. So got my 3.1 done. 

After the last time I ran that route and got slightly carried away with a 5k pb. I spent the whole distance chanting to myself…steady, steady, steady. Legs where tried and after all a very easy recovery run is meant to be just that. So I was happy to keep control the whole way and a pleasant wee run to round the week off.

So another week done. Many lessons to be learnt also with the main one being that we have to have bad runs to appreciate the good ones. 

Can’t believe I’ve managed to stick to plan religiously for 2 weeks. Legs are holding out well but mileage going up again this week. I doubt Dermot would ever set me something he didn’t think I could achieve. But for the record…hes flirting with the upper limit of mileage I can pull out in 1 week. 

7 weeks to go…

8 weeks to go…

8 weeks to go…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 6: Long Run Day- 12 mile

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

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

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

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

Day 7: Recovery Run.

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

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

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

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

8 weeks to go

Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Rockin N Rollin in Dublin

Ok I know this is well overdue but with having the Ultra at Knockagh the week after Rock n Roll, I found myself immediately on my return from Dublin launching straight into the zone and spending the week afterwards, recovering from it all.

I had always had my sights set on the Half Marathon in Dublin as an opportunity for me to go out and leave nothing on the course. It had been over a year since I’d clocked a half personal best, putting it down to simply pushing up the miles for DCM and then Derry. But with the huge increase in miles over the past year, I began to wonder why I wasn’t getting any faster.

Ok it was obvious that my training held the answer to that. The lack of speed training in my then non existent plan meant that yes I was happy to plod along for 13, 17, 20 miles but although building endurance my speed never picked up and actually went the other way.

So with being crowned the Ulster Rock n Run Idol, this was my chance to shine. After Derry Marathon I got my act together and began intervals with the girls on Wednesday nights and it wasn’t long before not only I, but Jennifer started to clock better times. With Summer upon me also, it freed me up to take to the mountains on active recovery days and even the mental advantages of that where priceless as I wondered aimlessly up the Mournes for hours on end, sometimes on my own, sometimes dragging someone along.

At Ards Half, I was a mere 50seconds of my PB and I was treating the race as a welcome back to running after Derry Marathon a few weeks earlier. And then the bright idea of tackling Knockagh 50k Ultra presented itself, so no more excuses, it was game face with Rock n Roll now being an invaluable race as part of taper and endurance.

So the weekend went like this.

Friday

Note this became a weekend away with the girls. It was Brendas birthday and Michael being on the bench didn’t mind staying behind. So off we set to Dublin on the Friday evening. I had flirted with the idea of even a 5k PB on the Saturday at the 1st race. That all went out the window as we arrived into the RnR VIP party on Friday night.

Teaming together with the Dublin RnR Idol, Keith and his dashing significant other, Stephen, I would love to go into further details on what happened next but its a bit hazy so the general consensus was that maybe it was a good thing that Sinead won the competition as the two of us where certain to be liabilities in Vegas. When you feel the need to teach a barman how to pour a proper glass of wine, this is where we went wrong. It was gone past 2 before we crawled into bed and alarms set to get up for the 1st of 3 races that weekend.

 

Saturday

Not good. Not good at all. I will say this, the best thing I could have done was get up and go outside, even to run (using that term lightly). Serious case of being hungover, but thankfully I wasn’t the worst, isn’t that right Jennifer. Who cares about Personal Bests, Saturdays race was solely about Personal Worsts. Together we made it round the course in just short of 43 minutes and a valuable lesson was learnt! NEVER AGAIN- at least as an ensemble we looked class together as the mini team of little misses.

The welcome taste of Mega Meanies and Lucozade (the staple diet of the weekend with Eddie Rockets) got me going post race and we spent Saturday chilling and fuelling the appropriate way for the Half Marathon on the Sunday.

Sunday

In all honesty I was just glad to be alive on Sunday. The antics of Friday had me wondering if I was even going to be fit for 13.1 mile. So with the intentions, sponsored by the toll bridge on the way down, to just arrive alive.

It was an early start. I had to be at the start line for a photo call with other idols and people involved and we had opted to walk to the Point/O2/3Arena or whatever it is called now. All dreams of a PB had gone out the window and I was just going to take things as they came.

Bumping into some other local running celebrities, The Roddy Sisters, we made our way to the start and spirits where high. I forget how big some events can be. So used to smaller scale runs, it was lovely to be surrounded by a sea of runners. The serious athletes, the groups tackling this together, those in fancy dress and then your average joes like me out to pass a Sunday morning and earn some fabulous bling.

Everyone within the RnR team where fabulous. A great family of event organisers who knew exactly how to work of eachother. Photos taken and it was a matter now of waiting for everything to kick off.

With Jennifer returning home on Saturday evening to compete in Monaghan 10/5 miler, it left Caitriona, Brenda and myself to tackle the half. We had stolen Janet to keep us in craic and little did I know that she was to play a huge part in my race in the latter stages.  It was a perfect day for running, overcast but not cold. Though it was to heat up.

As corrals began to cross the line from 8.30. It was nearing 9 before we crossed the mats and we stayed together as a threesome for the first mile or so. Losing Caitriona quite early on, Brenda and I ran side by side round Christchurch and past the Guinness Factory. What still to this day gets me wondering is why everyone was waiting to get their pictures taken mid race, outside St. James’ Gate. I get that its iconic but swing by after the race and get your photo!

Shortly after 5k, Brenda told me to motor on and she’d catch up. As we hit 4 mile, I wasn’t to see Brenda again and found company with the lovely ladies of Star, Derry. I always worry when someone knows me and I don’t know them but knowing a few of their clan, I was glad it wasn’t because I had been banned from Derry after the marathon after party!

I also began to notice a lot of the course was like DCM backwards and got this strange fuzzy feeling inside. I fondly look back on my run at Dublin and it was lovely, yet petrifying to be back on those roads again.

Losing the Derry girls, I entered into Ballyfermot with 2 lovely ladies from Sloggers to Joggers. They were upbeat and just what I needed. Full of craic and support. At around 5 mile as we swept around the corner to the climb to the back of Phoenix Park, I met a first time half marathoner from England. At this point also it began to heat up, the clouds had started to lift and the sun peaked out. We ran together until 8 mile. Her determination to not stop to walk was fabulous. In all honesty she kept me going as I thought to myself, there’s no need for me to stop, I’m fit to keep going. At the 8 mile water stop as we arrived in Phoenix Park, I told her I’d catch her and took on some water and a gel.

Here is where my race picked up no end. Janet came beside me as I was getting stuck back in. Janet and I have spent many miles together and as a fellow guide runner, we always have plenty to talk about. Yes I know if I’m talking, I’m not running hard enough but I love the company and she is faster than me so its a challenge to keep alongside her and one I contently managed on the day. As we fell in with some ladies from Duleek who were brilliant to pace off, we hit 10 mile.

I dared to look at my watch and knew that I was well ahead of where I had hoped to be. However, I was no sooner thinking about saying something when I spotted the medical team on the hill. And there was some poor soul flat on the ground. I knew after the way I died the previous day that anything could happen to me over the next 3 mile. So I kept it to myself and enjoyed the tale of Janet and Tony at the Twin Peaks Half Marathon.

At mile 11 I spotted Sinead, Sinead and Eileen on the brow of the hill and as lake buddies who I have passed multiple times in the past week going the other way it was nice to mob them and share the love for the lake!

Mile 12 I caught sight of my friend from earlier in the race, still going. Janet and I had picked up Donna, one third of the infamous Roddy Sisters and plenty of abuse was being hurled of course all with laced with love and respect. I knew I had the personal best even if I crawled the last mile but I was feeling strong and I was buzzing. The end was near and as we turned onto the final straight I could feel the overwhelming emotions of achieving the long awaited Half PB. This was made even more special as with 100m to go there where the cheers from my southern running family, Drogheda and District AC, who I adopted at Derry. 2.36 saw me knock over 5.5 minutes off my time from Cookstown Half in July 2016.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get through the finish funnel quick enough to phone Michael and tell him. I really missed not having him patiently waiting for me and unable to share the moment with him. I could barely talk and for once he was genuine and said well done, when I got home the next day, he was sure I could do better. Which I am not going to argue with.

Walking back to the DDAC contingent to cheer the girls home allowed me to share my excitement with everyone. It wasn’t long before we welcomed Brenda across the line and she was followed by Caitriona shortly after. We all arrived alive.

On completing the Half we had half an hour to get ourselves sorted for the fun run. 1.5 mile which we were treating as a cool down. Seems nearly everyone was doing the same but we crossed the line earning ourselves the 4th medal of the weekend.

A quick interview with the RnR crowd and we were free to bask in the glorious August Sunshine in our nations Capital.

Best way I can describe Rock n Roll is; It’s like Christmas for Runners. Plenty of bling, well thought out and organised route and surrounded by your running family. The craic was immense and no doubt I will be returning but think I will be avoiding the wine next time.

 

 

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. 

Going further 

Going further 

I had been telling myself all week that I was going to do 14 miles. 

Even when people asked me how many miles I’d to do on plan this week, I was dead casual and the number 14 rolled off as if it was no bother to me. When in reality, I was absolutely bricking it.

Although only 0.9 mile more than what I ran the week before. Its a really long way in general. I’d spent 3 days eating my way through house and home after Dambusters Half but returned to the gym on Wednesday with Shane for my one to one and whilst feeling invincible I came back to the gym an hour later to do spin and abs class. I wasn’t worth buttons on Wednesday evening.

I knew I had to do my long run on Friday morning. A day sooner than I would have essentially have liked after the session I put in on Wednesday but with visitors coming for the weekend, I’d no other choice. 

So I set the alarm for 6.30am and prepped all the gear so I’d no excuse.

The alarm went off and I reluctantly got up.  The sky was blue and it was warm. I fired in my bowl of cornflakes and the heel of the loaf with jam before setting off. 

As I took on a brisk walk up the town towards the park. I’d several potential routes that would take me 14mile. As I hit the gates of the park I got stuck in. But from that very moment I had no drive and was ridiculousy uncomfortable.

As I set off down Crow Road I knew it would be a miracle if I hit 4 mile never mind 14. So my mindset was negative and in true Siobhan fashion, I headed for the back hills to find some inspiration from the views. Yet it never came. However as I looked up as I came towards to parking hut, I spotted Frankie. He’s been an awesome support for me in my random runs so at 4 mile (which took me a painstaking 58mins) I stopped to talk to him and told him my planned route. At least I knew he’d give me the thumbs up everytime I passed the Hut and give me something to look forward to. 

And that was me…on track to complete the Born2Run 10k route which would bring me up to 10mile. Gosh I just couldn’t get into it at all. At 6 mile I called Michael to see if he could take the kids up to do the final lap with me as I was mentally struggling. Sadly he wasn’t going to be able to make it so I was on my own. 

As I hit the 2hour mark I was of the opinion that if I have to walk the rest of it I might as well as if already invested 2 hours into the run. Reaching 10mile after 2hr20 mins I knew I’d be on the go for another hour as legs felt like lead but I just had a lap of the lake left.

As much as I detest the lake route. Knowing it was the last batch of miles todo made it not too bad. I managed to pb on and anticlockwise lap of the lake. To finish off the run I headed back out the front entrance and homebound I turned the corner of the street at 14.03 miles. 

So I made it…somehow. I know now that mentally I’m a lot stronger than I thought or maybe I’m just plain and simply a stubborn aul cow. But 14mile in the bag and looking for 15/16 mile for the long run ahead.