Thursday, 5 January 2017

When the going gets tough...!

Disclaimer: If you are looking for an inspirational weight-loss post, I'm afraid this isn't going to be it. This also isn't a pity post, I just wanted to come back online and write out how I'm feeling as I've always found this blog a great way for me to be accountable to myself. 

I have been absent from the blog for the past two months - Here's a quick overview: I ran the Dublin City Marathon at the end of October, went to New York on holidays, celebrated my birthday, enjoyed the run up to Christmas, still went out for a few runs, stopped going to weigh-ins, fell off the wagon, ate, drank and partied. It was all fun and games until this Tuesday just gone (Jan 3rd), when I went back to work and back to Weight Watchers for my first class in seven weeks.

I was up 13lbs. That's 13lbs on top of the small weekly weight-gains that had been creeping on in the latter half of the year but I hadn't really been paying attention to. This meant, as I stood on the scale on Tuesday evening looking at my weight: 15st 2lbs I've realised that I've only let myself down, I've slipped up badly!

The pic on the left (above) was taken in June this year just after I crossed the finish line after the Waterford Marathon with a PB (3:46). The pic on the right was taken at the Fields of Athenry 10K on Stephen's Day. I actually don't even know what to say - I'm annoyed with myself. I'm disappointed that I let myself slip so far backwards while at the same time I was aware of what I was doing along the way.

Not only have I been carrying around extra pounds, I've also been battling big time with a negative mindset/attitude towards myself - both of which have been weighing me down in more ways that one. The funny thing is, I know exactly what I would say to a friend in the same boat but for some reason, I don't know why I can't tell myself. 

The fact that I've done it before (lost weight) doesn't make this any easier. I've said before and I'll say it 1000 times: The first pound is as hard to lose as the last. Unfortunately Losing weight doesn't mean that it's gone forever and on the same hand, gaining weight also doesn't mean its forever! If there is one thing I know to be true, its the power of starting now and taking things one step at a time. I'm not going to stare half way down the corridor at where I was, I'm going to focus on the next step. 

On Tuesday I faced the scale. Yesterday I laced up and went out for my first run of the year. Today I'm facing you guys with the blog. I know there is no quick fix solution. I know I'm not happy heading in the direction I've been heading in so thats why I'm dusting myself off, turning myself around and focusing on just taking the next step.

First Run of 2017... 5K in the bag!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Marathon #9 - Dublin 2016

Some runs just stay with you forever. They live on in your heart and head. For example, I can recall the precise moment during my first marathon (in Dublin three years ago) when I realised that I was actually going to finish. I can still recall the lift that feeling gave me about 23 miles around the marathon course as I made my way with such steely determination towards the finish line. Fast forward three years and I find myself rushing, hesitant and slightly fuddled to the start line my ninth marathon just minutes before kick off.

At the very back of Wave 1 - Approx 8:55am, Sunday 30th of October

I didn't want to run with Wave 1, I'd forgotten my pacing band, I'd missed my friends outside their hotel as the taxi dropped me at the opposite side of Merrion Square. I debated whether I'd hang back and start with Wave 2 but once the klaxon went off, I followed the crowd out and under the starting arch and over the mat. 

I told myself to take it easy and run about 5:30/km (which I had been running all my long training runs at) so I found the first few kilometers actually flew by. I felt it was particularly warm/humid for early on a crisp Sunday morning but just brushed off the sweat gathering on my forehead as I made my way up through Phoenix Park. My pace was pretty consistent and I felt alright.

Snapped as I passed Stephens Green just after the start

I made my way through Inchacore (16km) and Dolphin's Barn (21km) hitting half way with 1:56 on the clock (I was aiming for a 4 hour) but something happened as soon as I went over the half way mat that changed the rest of the race... I started to pay attention to that nasty little negative back-chatter that was rolling around in my mind all race. As soon as I'd given it a scratch, it needed more - the next five miles dragged. I felt every step and couldn't lift whatever weight had come down on my mind/mood/mindset. 

I started chastising myself over my lack of commitment to my training plan, began doubting my ability of go the distance, thought about every 'bad' food choice I'd made over the past week. It was like a spiral, with each unwrap I could feel my motivation trickling away. When I got to the 30km mark I broke... and started walking.

I told myself I'd walk 1, run 1 but I just didn't have it in me. I walked from 30-31, ran from 32 to 34 and then started walking again... I told myself I wasn't taking a medal once I crossed the finish line as I'd let myself down and I didn't deserve it (I was in a really bad place!). At this stage I was 3:25 into the marathon and all I could think about was how different this experience was to my previous marathon a few months ago when I powered home in Waterford in 3:46.

I have always said how amazing the crowd in Dublin are but bloody hell, they really pulled out the stops. Maybe they felt sorry for me, maybe they could see I was broken on the inside but honestly, I've never received such encouragement, applause and back pats from random strangers in my life. Despite the continual support and words of encouragement to persevere, I just didn't have it in me. Even at 40km, with just 2km to go I started to run but stopped almost immediately. I walked right up to 41.5km and ran the last few hundred meters up Mount Street and across the finish line with 4:37 on the clock.

2016 Race Bling

As I crossed the finish line I saw the shimmer of the medal and thought 'F*** it, I've just clocked up a marathon distance (even if I walked the last 8km)' and I graciously received my medal as a symbol, a physical reminder of whatever the hell just happened out on the course I didn't quit. Despite the ample opportunity to come off the course and head home, I kept going. I'm not proud of my effort and most definitely didn't finish anywhere near empty. I still haven't fully processed what happened out there but I've been doing a lot of soul searching since.

My official time is 4:37:23 making this my worst marathon performance to date. Ironic really considering earlier this year I clocked my person best. That being said, my phone did notify me that I'd just completed my longest ever workout. 

Dublin, you were amazing. I was not. But in the words of the Terminator... I'll be back!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Galway Bay Half Marathon - Half Marathon #16

Considering the fact Run Galway Bay is the largest road race in Galway, Its kind of funny that I've never run it. This race attracts huge numbers across its three distances (10K, Half & Full) and is always at the start of October and is one of the last big races in Galway of the year. I actually only signed up for this race last weekend (I won a free entry on their Twitter) and decided to roll my scheduled long run into the Half so planned on going out and taking it easy for 21km around Galway Bay.

I made my way to Claddagh Hall (start line) for around 11:30 as most of the 10Kers had finished (they started at 10am) and some marathoners were passing by doing loops (they started at 8:30am). The route consists of a 10K loop from Claddagh out along the Prom through Salthill and out to the Barna Rd before doubling back. The Half has a single lap of South Park (1.1km) and the Full had two laps (2.2km) before heading out on the 10K. Sounds complicated but really was quite straightforward.

Hanging with Toby before the race start!
(Check him out on IG:

Start Line

The Half Marathon started at 12:15 and after one loop of the park, we made our way out along the prom and into Salthill. Honestly, the kilometers were rolling by without much thought so I wasn't going to question it. The route was packed with runners in both directions which made the run quite pleasant as you always had something to keep your attention. I was conscious of my pace as I was consistently hitting 5:00/km which is faster than my planned long run pace (around 5:30/km). I think actually the 1:45 pacer losing his balloon half way around helped be ease back a little as I wasn't trying to keep him in my sights.

Snapped by Lisa (thats me with my hands up)

We looped back around by the Finish Line at around the 11.5km mark which was actually the only low-light of the entire experience. Having to pass the finish line and know you have the same loop to do again is kind of disheartening. I don't know how the marathoners did it four times! As I made my way back out the prom (12/13km) the lead male was already on his way back past me. They were actually the things that made this race special. I passed friends and fellow Maree AC members on route a few times which is something that rarely happens in a race.

Before I knew it I was down to the last 5km as I made my way back in along the prom. At this point I knew I was in trouble. I committed the biggest sin known to runners, I broke the 'Nothing new on race day' rule in that I was wearing brand new shoes as last weekend, my old pair kicked the bucket when the insole shifted and left me with a large blister on the side of my foot. I said I'd try new shoes on this run but 16km in, I could already feel the blisters on both my feet. Ouch.

The last five km passed as quickly as the first five as I made my way back to the finish line. I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:47:23 - delighted! The finishers tent was crammed with cake, coffee, water, sandwiches and beer but I was more concerned with getting back to the car and taking my runners off than I was about cake (first time ever thats happened I reckon!)

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable event, excellently organised and well worth doing. From the O'Hehir's lady giving out sweets at the end of the prom, to the marshalls, the route, the crowd and the overall atmosphere, I'd definitely recommend this for anyone next year. The sun even came out for us (its October and it felt more like June). My only gripe was what seemed like the random start times but I'm sure this decision was made from logistical point of view (the best way to spread out the runners over the day instead of crowding the course at any point with thousands of runners). 

I have one last long run next weekend (32km) and then its taper for Dublin Marathon at the end of the month. I always love the training after its done but when you are in the middle of it sometimes its hard to see the woods from the trees. Am I looking forward to Dublin? I don't know... Was I looking forward to Galway Bay? Not really but I did really really enjoy it. Never second guess how a run will go on any day!

Half Marathon #16 in the bag - next stop: Dublin Marathon

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Two weeks in to the 8 Week WW Challenge

So two weeks ago, myself and The Skinny Doll challenged ourselves (and anyone else who fancied a kick-start) with an eight week challenge. The rules were simple, if you were down weight on the scales, the other has to cough up some money (€5). If you are up on the scales, you cough up more (€20). All money goes into a pot for Breast Cancer Ireland (you can donate here if you'd like to help:

For me, week 1 was a great re-start. I've always believed in the power of small changes so I set myself the mini goal of tracking everything for the month of September and so far, I've stuck to it. Tracking keeps me accountable to myself as I have an uncanny knack of forgetting the sweet treats I eat along the way and that 11am coffee break biscuit followed by the 4pm half a twix and the post-dinner square (or two) of chocolate all add up! I've decided not to cut chocolate/treats out as I find sometimes this backfires when I snap, so by tracking I can have my cake and eat it too (so to speak).

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard...

My Week 1 result was down 2lbs. Doll was down a seriously impressive 6.5lbs so between us we've clocked up €10 for Breast Cancer Ireland and lost 8.5lbs.

For Week 2, my little change was to be more active. Now, I already do a good bit of running but I wanted to vary my exercise routine so I started yoga at work, brought the dog on more walks than usual and started back at Bootcamp (which I've been neglecting all Summer). It's easy to make excuses and complain about the weather/how dark it is in the mornings/evenings but we are going into Winter and a little rain/darkness never stopped me before.

Office Yoga/Snoozing (snapped by a work colleague)

Walking in Renville Woods

Saturday Morning at Oranmore parkrun

My Week 2 result: Down 4lbs! Skinny Doll was down 1.5lbs. That's another €10 in the pot for Breast Cancer Ireland and in the battle of East vs West, Boy vs Girls, Doll vs JQ we are down a total of 1 stone in two weeks. Our battle plans drawn up, we both advance on into Week 3 with guns blazing!

I'll leave you with this thought - I was visiting a friend in hospital (UCHG) last week and the lobby area there really is some amazing thought-provoking artwork. A great Galway artist (Finbar247) has painted many positive mental health messages all over the walls there, its impossible not to feel inspired walking by. This is probably my favourite and sums up a lot of what this challenge is teaching me - Start today (Day 1), take baby steps repeating your positive actions (track, walk, be accountable to yourself with what you eat) and within three week, you'll have formed a new habit/routine. That's the essence of the eight week challenge to re-ignite lapsed ways and get back into gear!