Tag: runner

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 Micéal 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 Micéal 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. 🙈

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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. 

Leaving It All On The Road

Leaving It All On The Road

It’s funny how even though your focus is elsewhere in running, you still wonder why you haven’t achieved what you should have.

Ok it’s pretty obvious I don’t like shorter races. I’ve found myself quite content within the bigger miles. I’ve even caught myself saying yeah it’s only 13 mile. ONLY! What is wrong with me…thats a very long way. However not doing shorter races left me wondering what I was capable of over 5 and 10k in a race situation.

Cue 26 Extremes, Women’s Mini Marathon. It was the 10k race I did last year before beginning my climb in miles for DCM16 so you could say I was in 10k race fitness then. It had been the 4th time that year that I had clocked a 1.09 and the illusive 1.08.59 never happened. So I left 10ks behind and seemingly never returned to them.

I did plenty in training and did do both the Mourne Way Night 10k which was a serious bit of craic and then Newry 10k guiding the hippo but they weren’t races as such. 

I have spent the past month or so working hard in intervals and on the hills in amongst ridiculous miles as I train for my first 50k. I had pb’d at Rostrevor parkrun two weeks ago and was feeling strong. But with that comes the self doubt and obsessive behaviour of looking at times in longer races and debating pace.

A wise man once told me that if you want to go out and run a certain pace on race day…you’ve to train at that pace as to not shock the body. I’d completed sessions of epic jelly leg proportions and at that nerves set in. Yet all I had to do was just keep running.

Sunday morning I felt weird leaving the house with just my phone in my pocket and none of the paraphernalia I have with me for longer runs. Kept thinking I’d  forgot something. Arriving at Kilbroney it was the usual suspects who greeted me. And this is what I love about running. 

The running community is ace. I’m sure I could turn up at any race in the North and know a handful of people. The craic and banter was flowing as the threat of rain soon disappeared and the ground began to dry up. As nearly 300 women and their families gathered amongst the tunes and buzz of the event. 

I know 26 Extreme go by the ‘we don’t do easy’ tagline which they do live up to 99% of the time. However the Mini Marathon is one of their races which flirts with being a normal run. I said flirts!  8k of tarmac along a beautiful country road shadowed by the mountains. Then you ascend up towards Kilbroney to hit a hill where the language heard on that hill is let’s say, colourful. Finishing on the most immense downhill finish through the trails which would take every last ounce of hill training to nail perfectly to use to your full advantage.

On the buses we got and as we passed the 8k point all that could be heard across the whole bus was ‘that’s the hill.’ In fairness, it isn’t the worst, it’s short and sharp however after 5k of a downhill it is a shock to the system. 

I did have to laugh that out of all the buses there where, the ‘naughty crew’ had randomly all got on the same bus. So amongst friends and our running family there was plenty of laughs to be had. 

Starting the race we set off toward Leitrim Lodge. Knowing the route, I just wanted to get to 3k in good time. A gradual climb but nothing I couldn’t handle. Passing Leitrim Lodge I thought about how much I had rather have been up the mountain than running. But as I looked ahead I could see on the brow of the hill the NCR colours of Patricia Brown leading the pack. 

It was hard to catch my breath, it was very humid however I could hear the same panting all around me. So I knew everyone was feeling it. Passing Santa’s Cottage I had found myself in amongst friends. Laura Jane had pushed on at the start and I was delighted to see that as she undertook her first 10k since returning to running. I could still see Jennifer which was my plan but she was far enough away so I couldn’t catch her. And beside me was Donna who had come down for the event after a tough run the day before at Dark Hedges Half. We played cat and mouse for a bit and she found her stride and took off in the direction of Jennifer to catch her.

The 3k point arrived and strangely I said to myself gosh that was quick, 2k was only a few minutes ago. How times have changed. Working in miles means that the kms come thick and fast. Here I began to run along side Janet. Another eejit who had completed the half the day before and PBd on the course. Having spent many a mile with Janet over the year, the most memorable being the last lap of the LOS recce and the 20 at Knockagh, I knew keeping pace with her would keep me focused and on track. 

As my watch beeped every mile I could see my pace was strong and I aimed to keep it under the 11 min/miles. I knew I could let the hill take me down to Kilbroney and that the hill wouldn’t hinder me too much. 

Lorraine had made up ground on me and although we were both giving our all we were able to keep eachother going and moving. Even as we turned to the hill I recall telling her not to stop and we made it to the top together. Into the trails, down the track I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ran down it. It was here I knew the pb was about to become a reality.

Race maths does help me pass the time. But knowing turning onto the hill with a mile to go I could walk the whole way and beat last year’s time gave me a real buzz that I haven’t felt in a while. I had no idea exactly what time I would come in. As I turned onto the caravan park onto the parkrun route I knew it was all or nothing. 

I started to pick people off as we approached the final hill down. Even finding myself on the grass taking over. I was literally giving every thing I had. I was determined to catch Lorraine out in front and as I did, managing to feel her bum on the way past, I powered onto the flat where my legs turned to concrete. It was the clock 100m in front of me that kept me moving. The wee red numbers reading 1.06. 

I crossed that line knowing I had did it into the arms of 26 Extremes finest, Emma. Who said ‘take it that’s a PB Siobhan’ I could barely talk but just smiled. 

Grabbing a bottle of water and the event beer thank you Mourne Brewery, I’m getting used to celebrating with a bottle of your finest these days, I headed into the crowd of finishers. I spotted Laura Jane and delighted to hear that she had done so well. 

Then I bumped into the wise man himself. Think it’s the first time a race ever brought tears to my eyes. I could barely spit out that I had taken 3 minutes off my time. I just stood and cried. Another tick on the list of mad and mental attributes I’ve displayed in running. 

You see the thing is, I don’t even like 10ks simply because of the pressure you put on yourself. At HM I have a 15 minute window where I would like to finish time wise, however 10ks is very much a very very small window if I want to be happy with my time. I put the pressure on myself so I cant blame anyone else. So to have clocked up 50k last week before setting foot across the line on Sunday, I knew I had a battle on my hands with tired but possibly strong legs. And to pull a fast 10k when you are turning out long 20mile runs for an Ultra was a pipe dream.

Celebrating with everyone on the line was great. Caitriona and Brenda had put in strong runs and Donna caught up with Jennifer. Delighted to see the now run/walk duo of Liz and Aine powering through the distance. Denise had words of wisdom and the Ormeau Runners posse keep Kilbroney looking bright. Of course I can’t forget The Dame, running royalty herself. Who always makes me smile and her jokes of being taken up the Knockagh backwards where welcomed.

So more miles and more smiles amongst us all. I had actually surprised myself yet now I’m wondering what I can pull out of the bag at Rock n Roll in 2 weeks. I clocked not only a 10k pb but also a 5k pb. I was so busted after I didn’t manage a celebratory drink until Monday evening. I’ve recovered quicker from Marathons. 

So it seems training hard does pay off and I’ve been back to the road this week with an impending 20miler this Saturday if anyone wants to do multiple laps of the lake? 

With August riddled with events all over the place the full naughty crew is due to reconvene in force together at Causeway in September. But plenty of running to be done in the meantime. Let’s just start praying now that the sun will shine down on us at Causeway this year but sure we’d a great time last year in the rain! Either way I’m sure it’ll be another cracker event by 26 Extreme.

Sign up for Causeway HERE

I can’t imagine life without you

I can’t imagine life without you

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

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

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

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

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

So I took the plunge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together for many more miles and many more smiles.

 

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

VOTE SIOBHAN GRANT

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

 

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/

 

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

I didn’t sign up to guide oversized Hippos

So you are going to run Newry 10k dressed as Henry the Hippo…this I’ve got to see.

It’s not like Michael to have a random idea involving dressing up and let’s face it I married him in the hope he would balance out my crazy. Always the sensible one in the marriage even the suggestion of this to raise money for Cash 4 Kids caught me off guard.
As always I’m such a supportive wife and collected the suit and took the pictures however it was 24hrs before the event that the bombshell was landed on me.

“I can’t see out it”

So there was me on Saturday, getting my head around the fact I’d to guide run with him dressed as a hippo. When I completed my guide running training in the view of raising awareness of inclusion and getting visually impaired runners out there, I didn’t think inclusion would extend to oversized hippos, especially my husband dressed up as one. We don’t run well together…ever. My first 10k I told him at 7k to bog off and leave me alone as his form of encouragement enraged me. At Running Blind I nearly killed him more than once you can read about it here: Running Blind – An Eye Opener. So my confidence wasn’t high that the marriage would make it through this latest challange.

So here we are before hand. Happily ignorant to the 6.2 mile ahead of us. I donned the tutu as if he was going to look an eejit, I might as well join him.

I had so many worries. Primarily the fact he could easily over heat in that outfit was at the forefront of my mind. Usually a 50min 10ker he knew he had a big drop in pace required and when it comes to slow and steady, I’m your woman. I told him it would be more near 1.15 factoring in some breaks to let him breathe and drink.

As we set off the kids in the street loved it. Who doesn’t want to high five a huge Hippo. The adults too just loved seeing the familiar face of a childhood icon again. On the lap of the town we had our first and ONLY mishap where I told him to wave right and he turned right instead and went straight into a cone but didn’t fall.  As we entered into the second mile, we were going strong and hit the Tow Path where we knew the only people we would see where the other runners.

Even the Psni where going to lock him up for his random idea.

It was warm, although the sun was firmly behind the clouds, I was feeling the heat. Yet I was tied to Michael in the Hippo suit, tied together by the strap of the child’s Trunki skilfully looped so he could be guided safely. I kept checking was he ok and reminding him to slow down. The leaders in the 10k race passed, with local NAC member David O’Flaherty in 1st and the main man himself Dermot Mathers in second. We got the look of “what the hell are you two at” from him as he cruised down the familiar tow path that he runs a few times a week. I don’t think anything I do now, surprises him.

With the leaders coming our way it wasn’t long until the rest of the 10k runners came past. Shouts of support, high fives, laughs and giggles from the runners made what could have been a lonely part of the race more fun. Michael did offer them at times to swap but there was no takers. At 3.5 mile we had the well needed water stop. I knew I was making good time in general and when Michael took the head off for a drink, the sweat was running off him, he had to take his glasses off as it was steaming up inside and the buff he was using as a sweat band was wringing.

The next 2.5 mile was going to be hot but we were homeward bound. By now we had a steady stream of half marathoners passing us. Many familiar faces and continued support. On the return leg we met Peter for a selfie, wouldn’t be a race for me if I didn’t get the craic with him!

As we came off the towpath with under a mile to go, Michael took a breather as we walked for a minute. After all the rest of the race was going to be amongst the eyes of the public so we had to at least let on we were loving life!  The fact of the matter was, I was feeling great as he melted to death in the hippo suit. We came into the final half mile with Michael waving and giving thumbs up to everyone about. Turning onto Hill Street, the announcer had spotted us and the cheers where mighty. Not only from the spectators but the fellow runners who had finished and had passed us on the way.

We clocked 1.11.24 – lets face it, not to shabby for me and a hippo.

With Gillian Fitzpatrick Chair of the Council, Fiona Valentine from Newry Branch Ulster Bank and my side kick always willing to support the Grant madness without question…Caitriona. 

After a quick breather and meeting up with Caitriona and Fiona who had been shaking buckets for change and showing flawless support of Michaels endeavour, the head was put back on and Michael kindly posed for photos with runners and children. I have to admit I was taken back by the way he interacted with the crowd, I knew he couldn’t see who he was shaking hands with or who was in front of him, high fiving little babies, talking to the toddlers and letting wee kids kick him. Though what stood out for me was the fact there was a family with a child with special needs and he didn’t think twice when the girl asked for a hug. He then had to hug the whole family including the dad. Admirable and made that families day.  I guess that there are a lot of things that the money he has raised will go to help and support within the Cash for Kids charity however sometimes its just the simple things like a hug or taking time to listen a child that is priceless and something money can’t buy.

On the marriage front; we are still together, it was actually a really enjoyable outing as I couldn’t hear what he was saying so we didn’t fall out. It was great practice for guiding Tony next week at Derry marathon and hey it was a comfortable 10k for me and gives me hope that the past 6 months of big miles hasn’t totally ruined the smaller run, so after Derry I might give the shorter races a bash again before jumping back into marathon training.

As always everyone, make sure you have voted this week for Rock’n’Run idol. Brining a whole new level of inclusion into my journey and Michael being inspirational (and absolutely crazy) this week, it would be lovely to represent Ireland in Las Vegas.

VOTE HERE

 

Back where I belong 

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

The Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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