Saturday, 31 August 2013

Cocktails and Cravings...

I was out last night with a load of guys and girls from work (well, we were at a Team Building thing in Delphi for the night). After the day's activities concluded and we had showered and been fed, we found ourselves propping up the bar. In my defence, there was nothing else to do and besides there was a tab open (Thanks Work!)

Anyway, we spent the evening ordering absolutely delish cocktails sampling everything from Whiskey Sours to Long Islands, Mojitos to Daiquiris. 

Freshly made Whiskey Sour

Something weird happened last night though... I really really REALLY craved a cigarette! I have been so lucky not to have had many cravings since I've given up 18 days ago. I found myself watching people leave the bar to go outside for a smoke with such envy. I really fought the urge to follow them out. 

They say a picture paints a thousand words, and this picture from @chiniehdiaz pretty much sums up my night last night: 

I went to bed last night fuelled up on cocktails thinking about cigarettes - and woke at 8am still craving a cigarette! My usual distraction techniques didn't work like they normally do. I showered and went for breakfast but found myself just staring out at the smoking section in the hope that someone would appear with a cigarette.

On the journey back to Galway we were stuck in traffic and I found myself staring (like psycho-stalker-staring) at a driver who was smoking out the window. I can't explain the envy I felt looking at her smoke away oblivious to the fact I was eyeballing her out of it from the bus beside her. When I got home, I treated myself to a Curly Wurly to satisfy some craving inside me - which didn't hit the spot I'm afraid. Lunch didn't fill me either.

It's now 6pm and all I want is a cigarette...

Even as I write this post, I'm conflicted with the use of my words 'envy' and 'want'. Of course I don't WANT a cigarette, and how can I be envious of someone smoking when at the end of the day, there is nothing to be envious of when it comes to smoking. 

I suspect my craving is probably stirred up from the alcohol-induced state I was in last night, and although I hadn't thought about smoking all day yesterday, I clearly over-compensated how comfortable I was with not smoking.

I need to stay strong. Even if this means going to bed at 9pm tonight (Obvs I'm going to stay up for X Factor). Even if it means making my other half smoke around the corner from the house. Even if it means dipping into my treats for the week just to curb my cravings. My fear is that I am replacing one habit with another by replacing cigarettes with food/treats. I am trying to be strong and good from a Weight Watchers and Non-Smoking point of view but it feels like a lot today...

I need to remind myself of the reasons why I quit in the first place...

I need to realise the ways in which my life is improving since giving them up: I no longer stink of smoke, I've saved over €125, I've been able to treat myself to nice things, I've noticed my breathing while running has gotten much better (not as heavy). My chest and lungs feel so much lighter and I'm not coughing at all.

... or maybe, just maybe, all I need is another cocktail!?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

60 Days

The Dublin Marathon is 60 Days away... That's just over 8 weeks away! I've even added a little countdown timer to the blog...check it out over there on the right (follow the arrow)

I have been following the plan for the Marathon and it has been going great so far. I have to say the advice and support that people are giving each other over there as been great - I'm loving it, constantly checking in to see how everyone is getting on. Yesterday, I noticed the following post:
For the novices, the high mileage that you are doing is a shock to the system. 
From my 1st marathon a few years ago - here's some of the things I wish I could undo - made my 1st marathon experience a shocking one. 
(1) Running while injured.
(2) Not understanding the real physiological value in recovery runs & rest days
(3) Not owning & using a foam roller.
(4) Paying no attention to stretching or core work
(5) Looking for quick fixes - there are none - the aim is prevention.
The 1st aim of any marathoner - novice or experienced - is to make the start line injury free.
(link here)

It would be very short-sighted of me to ignore advice given by people who know what they are talking about as they have done it before. The poster is correct but was something I had never thought about before - my number one aim should be to turn up at the start line uninjured. What good is it to have worked out a planned pace, have done up a fancy excel sheet and prepared for weeks when you can't even make it to the start line?

My biggest offence from the post above relates to the foam roller. I own a foam roller and I use it but I don't use it as much as I probably should - so I am making that my resolution for September. Roll roll and more foam roll! I only use the roller when I feel something is a bit tight, but prevention is a safer approach. I promise I'll foam roll after each run.

I think the main thing that I have learned from last weekend's 30km run that ended in me shaking on the couch cradling a large bowl of popcorn and guzzling water is that I need to take what I am doing seriously. My body (in fairness to it) has done a great job so far in handling everything I have thrown at it. From WW to Bootcamps to Running to quitting smoking - it mustn't know what hit it! I don't know what I did in a previous life to be so fortunate, it's like I had a runner trapped inside me for the past 30 years waiting for his opportunity to spring into action.

I have also bought myself some books which I am looking forward to getting tucked in to this weekend:

Sixty Days...

It's at times like this I have to remember that I went from never running before to running my first 10K in under 60 days. 

When I joined Weight Watchers, I had lost a stone and a half (21lbs) in my first 60 days.

Looking forward, I can't wait to see how many miles my legs will cover in the next 60 days... I am also looking forward to being 75 days smoke free in 60 days time (I'm on Day 16 here and still going strong). A lot can happen in 60 days, training for my first marathon is how I plan on spending mine!

What are you planning to do over the next 60 Days?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Happy Weight Watch-a-versary!

It's my Weight Watch-a-versary today -52 weigh-ins ago I joined Weight Watchers... You are probably sick of reading me babbling on, so I've decided to do a picture blog post. This is what a year in the life of a Weight Watcher looks like:

August 2012 - September 2012 - October 2012

November 2012 - December 2012 - January 2013

February 2013 - March 2013 - April 2013

June 2013 - July 2013 - August 2013

(I know what you are thinking - where's May 2013? Well, I couldn't fit it in without throwing my nice 3 x 3 frames off, so you'll just have to trust me when I say I looked somewhere in between April and June)

ON PAPER: Two completed* record cards
(Disclaimer: I'm missing a three entries thanks to Christmas/Summer Holidays)

ON GRAPH: A bit of a bumpy ride but it's moving in the right direction

I run
(and enjoy it!)

I don't smoke 
(well... 2 weeks now)

I still eat pizza, pasta, bread, crisps & chocolate...
( moderation... but I enjoy them more)

I have more energy and don't shy away from physical activities 
(before I would have been afraid I'd break the trampoline)

I can spent quality time with my nephews doing things they like
(instead of just being able to sit in watching Toy Story)

One year on, a lot has changed. My physical size has gotten smaller, my attitude to food has changed, my outlook has shifted from 'Think Skinny' to 'Think Healthy'. The road hasn't been plain sailing but what fun would that have been! On the inside, I'm still the same person... with the same hopes and dreams for the future. The same person who is looking forward to spending an even better, higher quality, longer life with the people who have gotten me here today.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Amazing Run that Drained Me...

My marathon training is in full swing as I have been following the plan for the past three weeks. This week's LSR (Long Slow Run) was set for to be 18 miles (29km). The purpose of these LSR's (according to the program) are:

  1. LSR's help joints and muscles to adapt and to give them the endurance for long runs. 
  2. LSR's improve the cardiovascular system, strengthens the heart and increases the blood supply in the muscles; it therefore enhances the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to muscles. 
  3. LSR's enhances the body’s ability to burn fat as a source of energy. 
  4. LSR's teach the body to store more energy as glycogen in your muscles. 
  5. LSR's teach the body to run efficiently, minimising the energy expenditure needed to move you along. 

All in all, the LSR is classed as the most important run in any training program. Last weekend, through one thing and another, I missed my LSR (which was scheduled for 26km/16 miles) so ended up doing it Monday evening after work. Monday's run was great - I really felt like I could have kept going at 26km but it was starting to get dark (9pm) and I hadn't eaten dinner yet, so I happily finished up bang on target at 26km last Monday.

This weekend's LSR was for 29km - but I got cocky and the run ended up biting me back. I had planned on going for my run yesterday (Saturday) morning but as I haven't been sleeping that well since giving up the cigs, I ended up watching Pan's Labyrinth instead of sleeping Friday night/Saturday morning. So when I woke on Saturday, instead of going out for my run, I went to Bootcamp for an hour instead and pushed off the run.

After Bootcamp I had breakfast and went about my usual business. I decided to go into town and meet up with my brother who was visiting Galway for the weekend. I grabbed a soup for lunch and then we sat in a pub chatting with his friends and I drank a lot of coffee (3 cups). I also got this amazing cupcake which totally deserves a shout out:

Cookie Monster Cupcake from Griffins Bakery on Shop St, Galway

I got home from town about 4pm where my other half kindly reminded me that if I wanted to get my run in, to do it now as we were going to the afters of a wedding so we were aiming to leave the house about 9pm. With that in mind, I got changed, warmed up, packed my gels and water and off out the door I went just before 5pm.

I knew the route I was taking in my head - running from Oranmore to Craughwell and back. I chose this route as it was raining and visibility was semi-poor. My route choice was wise as it was along a main road with no crossings required, there was a large hard shoulder and I knew I would be passing a restaurant around the 9km and 20km marks so if I needed, I could pop to the loo (The things you have to plan for when running is crazy).

The first half of the run was super. I passed a motorbike cannonball type thing where a lot of the riders either flashed, waved or beeped me (probably because I was the only person on the road). I got to check out a lot of fancy houses that you never see when driving as they are off the road. Anyway, I'm digressing...

I think I have a problem with the gels/goos runners are meant to take on long runs in that, I don't really like them and don't think they work (for me). Anything less than 10km is fine, so the first time I used them was in training for the Half Marathon back in May - and then I was only using 1 gel pack. I would have half the 60ml gel at around 8km (45mins in) and the rest at 13km (1hr 15mins). I decided for todays run I would repeat the same format and have half at 45mins and then half every 30mins after that. My plan was simple: 45mins, 1hr 15mins, 1hr 45mins, 2hrs 15mins - and then run on home.

What actually happened was quite different... I had half at 45mins but found the second half at the 1hr 15min mark really threw my stomach off. I felt like it was repeating on me from that point but I carried on running. I hit Craughwell just before 1hr 30mins (15k) so I doubled back and headed home. As I had been in town earlier, I hadn't a chance to fully recharge my phone so the battery was down to 20% at the halfway point.

Oranmore to Craughwell - 15km

In order to preserve some juice to save my run, I turned everything off, including my music and I just kept on running. At 1hr 45mins when I should have had the first half of my 2nd gel, I didn't. Not because I forgot but because I was still refluxing from the first gel half an hour previously. I said I would keep going until 2hrs (20km) and I would have it then. When I opened the gel, I had the gawks trying to get it in to me, so only had a bit and figured I'd keep sipping away at it as the rest of the run went on.

I never had the 2nd gel - partly because I couldn't but also after I had opened the gel, it oozed all over my pocket - gluing the pocket net to my leg and leaving my shorts with a really suspicious goo stain! I simply kept on running. When I hit 26km I gave myself a little 'woop' (mainly because the road was quite and no-one but the cows would hear me celebrate) as anything from 26km onwards was new territory for me... I pushed hard - probably harder than I should have... 27km (woop), 28km (woop woop), 29km (scheduled finish)... 30km! (wooooooooooop!)

THIRTY KM! That's like, 75% of the Marathon with 9 weeks to go! I was so proud of myself. Of course my calves and hamstrings were screaming out but that didn't matter. I had a 30km run under my belt! The best thing was I clocked it in just under 3 hours (that's what I mean when I say I pushed myself at the end). I cooled down, stretched, showered and came downstairs ready for dinner and then to head off to the wedding.

Lamb Kebabs, Tzatziki and Carrot Salad

Sitting down for dinner was when the first wave of nausea hit me. I thought I was going to throw up. I just sat looking at my plate much to my other half's bewilderment as usually I'm first in. Upon taking a single bite, I ran to the bathroom where I thought I was going to throw up. That's when I got the shakes and felt completely weak. I returned from the bathroom a different man from the one who had come in the door 20 minutes previously delighted with himself.

I was completely drained. 

That was when I turned to everyone's favourite Doctor - Google. I diagnosed myself with dehydration and loss of electrolytes. My only source of fluid while I ran was from my water bottle (I didn't have any sports drink with me). I figured I needed to get something into me - so I made a bowl of Museli which seemed to go down but I still felt like I needed to throw up. I was still shaking and cold. 

I made a bowl of salted popcorn (as I read online that it is an easy way to replace lost salts) and continued to re-hydrate. At this point I was in no fit state to be going to a wedding. I encouraged my other half to go as I was only fit for bed as I felt completely and utterly drained. So that's what I did. Instead of dancing the night away having the craic and a few scoops with friends at Laura & Jason's wedding... I went to bed.

Yesterdays Lessons Learned:
  1. I really need to sort out my Runners Nutrition. A light lunch (soup), 3 cups of coffee and a cute cupcake does not fuel a 3 hour run. 
  2. Doing Bootcamp and a LSR on the same day is probably not wise. 
  3. I was crazy to leave such a short window of time between finishing the run and having to be somewhere else
  4. Find an alternative to Kinetica Gels (the only brand I've been using)
  5. Refuel correctly
  6. Rehydrate with water and sports drinks
I suppose this is the key function of the LSR which isn't mentioned in any plan - trail and error. By pushing myself and my body to new ground, I am going to have to learn how to adapt to running for 3+ hours at a time. A LSR is completely different to heading out for an hour after work. Most literature will tell you that any run less than an hour doesn't actually require any calorie intake as your body can work with reserves. 

I will learn from this - I'm just peeved with myself that my longest ever run (which actually felt quite good) ended up in me missing a friends wedding :(

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I'm taking it... step by step!

Well there's a bridge...
...and there's a river...

Only kidding -- I do love that Whitney Houston song, but that's not what this blog post is about. Next week is the one year anniversary (August 28th, 2012) of me joining Weight Watchers... I am also one week off cigarettes. A year, a week, a day... I love measuring things in terms of time. Time is a funny beast - it can pass in the blink of an eye or drag its heels kicking and screaming as you wait for the clock to hit home-time.

Everyone is familiar with all those inspirational quotes you see all over Facebook and Blogs (and here) such as 'Start today and you'll see results one day sooner than if you start tomorrow' and stuff like that but this one has always stuck with me:

Time is funny. Like our goals we see time as unbounded. Our goal might be to 'Lose Weight' and the time frame will be 'Straight after Christmas as there is no point starting now with my birthday and Christmas and Halloween etc coming up'. I tend so set generalised goals - without a start, middle or end point. Goals that are either hit or not hit. I never set ranges for Acceptable, Ideal and Exceeds all Expectations. The Skinny Doll posted something really interesting on her blog recently:

If you lost 1 lb a week by the time New Years Eve hits us.. you would be 1.5 stone lighter... and if you lost 2lb a week... you would be 3 stone lighter.. 

The Skinny Doll has a point! I joined WW at the end of August and was 3st lighter starting 2013. Time passes regardless of whether you have set a goal or not, so use your time wisely. Imagine if Today-John had the opportunity to sit down to have a conversation with 12-month-ago-John. Would I have believed that I'd be 7st lighter?... that I would be training for a Marathon?... that I wouldn't be smoking?... that my waist would go from 38 inches to 30 inches? 

No more than the smoking (now I know that is only a relatively new change but still). I only started seriously thinking about giving them up in the past two to three weeks. Last Monday I decided I was going to quit on Wednesday at 6.30pm. On Tuesday I decided to quit as soon as my pack was finished. 

If I am honest, it REALLY wasn't a great time to quit smoking... I'm currently 2lbs off my Target Weight, and everyone (even people who don't smoke) says that when you quit, you put on weight. This is Reason #1 why last week wasn't a good time to quit. Secondly, myself and my other half were heading to Limerick to spend the weekend in comfort. I knew there would be drinks, I knew there would be food, I knew there would be relaxation. This is Reason #2 why last week wasn't a good time to quit as relaxation and comfort trumps everything else really.

We were also booked in for an overnight babysitting last weekend. There is Reason #3 right there - I can barely mind myself let alone two boys (3yrs and 2yrs). I'm sure a cigarette would be have been a welcome 5 minute breather away from the screaming, Play-Doh throwing, boys. Lastly, we had friends over for dinner on Sunday night which is Reason #4 for not quitting last week. It would have been nice to share a smoke with them.

Now... If I had listened to myself and any one of those "reasons" which I had formed in my head, the week would have passed in a blink and I wouldn't have given up. I'd still be smoking today, thinking about when I was going to give up. I can guarantee I would have another list of reasons for the coming week/month. I replaced the word 'Reason' with 'Excuse', which really washed the truth out of my situation.

Excuse #1 - I'm nearly at my Target Weight
Bullshit! What difference does it make if I am at my goal weight but have lung cancer? Or if I hit goal weight, then quit smoking and put on weight.

Excuse #2 - I want to have a nice weekend:
Whatever! I'll have a nice weekend regardless of whether I am smoking or not. Yes, I might be a little on edge but the person I am spending the weekend with will understand what I am going through.

Excuse #3 - I'm babysitting and will need a 5-min breather:
Pathetic! I can take a 5-min breather at any point as opposed to have a 'legitimate' reason to leave for a few minutes (obviously leave the boys in the care of another adult - I'm not irresponsible)

Excuse #4 - I want to be able to have a cigarette with my friends:
Same as #2 really

Looking back at my Weight Watchers journey, if you had asked me one week in 'Do you consider yourself healthier?', my reply would have been: NO. If you ask me the same question now 'Do you consider yourself healthier?', my reply is: YES. I wonder at what point did my NO change to a YES? Was it 1 month in? 3 months in?

If you asked me now, 'Do I consider myself a non-smoker?', my answer is NO. I hope this to change to a YES but I don't know at what point in time my mind-set will change. No more than with Weight Watchers, I have always taken it one step at a time. Day by day... week by week. By repeating small efforts (for example opting for salad with a sandwich instead of the chips or persevering through a 5-min craving for a cigarette), I feel I have moved baby step by baby step along the path towards my goals.

Time is going to pass regardless. I'm disappointed with myself that I let my entire twenties go by as an overweight smoker. That (the past), I cannot change and will never be able to change. What I can change is who I am from today onward. I became the person I am today by taking little tiny baby steps... step by step. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

100 Hours Later...

I am officially over the 100 hour mark - it is now the 5th day since my last cigarette (which was at 7am Wednesday morning - not that I'm counting or anything). And despite the fact that I still haven't slept a full night since then - I'm actually quite surprised about how well the whole thing has gone for me. Of course I still find it hard not to want one, but I have really surprised myself this weekend by tackling some of the things I thought would be harder to get through... and I passed with flying colours.

The hour long car drive stuck in Friday afternoon traffic - done!
The night out with drink - done!
The sitting outside with someone else smoking - done!

I'm actually quite proud of myself.

I have decided that for the next few weeks, I am going to treat myself (more importantly my body) to some TLC. Figuring I will be 'saving' €8.50 a day, on Friday I set up a Direct Debit for the full €255 (€8.50 x 30) from my Bank Account to my Credit Union. Considering I always had that money to spend before and I never noticed it leaving my current account, I am going to continue that but in a more productive way by having it in savings. (€255 x 12 Months = €3060).

My Direct Debit doesn't starts until the end of this month, so I have three weekends to pamper myself with the €55 I won't have spent on cigarettes in the interim. Yesterday, we spent the night in Limerick (in a fab hotel called No. 1 Pery Square) so I checked myself into the Spa there and had a pedicure and leg massage for myself. I figure seen as my poor legs have been out on the tarmac for the last few months pounding the streets, the deserve a little pampering. I had my legs scrubbed, filed, wrapped in seaweed, heated, moisturised... It was bliss...

I never splash out on things like that for myself, but now I am making the effort to show myself just what I can get for the same amount of money I was spending on cigarettes. Does anyone out there have any idea of something I should try over the next two weeks? 

A Sports Massage? 
A Facial?

Any recommendations would be hugely appreciated!

This is how ridey I imagine I'll look in a few weeks time

Friday, 16 August 2013

50 Hours Later...

So now I'm well into Day 3 - and I'm still smoke-free. I have to say I found yesterday alright, no major cravings or anything. The hardest part has been changing routine. I have associated times and prompts which I am having to actively engage with to over-ride. For example last night, before I go to bed, I'd have gone out for a smoke and let the dog pee before locking up. Last night I found myself at the back door looking out with a sense of 'There is something I should be doing here'... 

I decided to complete the action (I went out with the dog like we usually do) - I went out to the garden and waited for CJ to do his business before locking up for the night. I've also found straight after dinner another time when I automatically get to go up and out for a smoke. Instead I preoccupied myself by making tea and loading the dishwasher until the wave passed.

I was out for a run yesterday evening, and similar to my weight loss journey, I'm finding great comfort in thinking 'This is the last time I'll run in this state'. A bit drastic I know, but what I mean is that over the coming few months, my lungs will start repairing and it's capacity will start increasing. I read this today:
Within 72 hours, the bronchial tubes in a smoker's body relax and the ability of the lungs to take in air increases. The cilia of the lungs begins regrowing within three days of the last cigarette. Cilia are tiny hairs that line the upper airways of the lungs and help protect against infection. The chemicals in cigarettes are toxic to the cilia and destroy the cilia, making the lungs increasingly vulnerable to diseases, toxins and pollutants. Regrowth of the cilia is an essential first step. Without the cilia, the lungs cannot be cleansed of the other toxic substances that developed because of the smoking habit. Within two weeks, the former smoker will notice an increase in lung function during daily activities
 Bring it on! I am clinging to every one of the 'Your body will repair' facts as this is my end goal.

The only downside to all of this has been the complete lack of sleep. I was up again last night multiple times which is completely unlike me as I can sleep on a raft, in a thunder storm, with no blanket. I went to bed around 1am hoping to sleep through to my 7am alarm but instead I saw 3am, 5am and lay awake from about 6.30. I think that's the worst part about bed... you have nothing to distract yourself with (Hey, keep it PC here folks!) whereas throughout the day, I've found plenty to keep me ticking over/distracted.

Right now I'm in work like this:

Thankfully I have a half day today so finishing up work at lunch time, then I'm off to Limerick for the night with my other half. I'm currently checking out the Spa treatments in the hotel as I feel I deserve a little pampering :) I remember someone in Weight Watchers before say 'You are not a dog, do not reward yourself with food' so I am using this line to justify spending the money that I haven't spent on cigarettes this week on myself. 

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

25 Hours Later...

The photo I posted in my previous post of my last pack of cigarette's was indeed my last pack of cigarette's. On Tuesday evening, we called to friends who cooked us a delicious BBQ. I spent the evening nursing my box of Camel Blues ensuring I would have enough to last the night as once it was gone, that was it! I left my friends house after midnight with one cig left in the box. I woke up yesterday [Wednesday] morning before 7am.

My last cigarette... Ever!

I smoked my last cigarette just like I would smoke any other cigarette. I didn't love the experience, there was nothing special about it. Why that cigarette was chosen to be the most significant cigarette I'll encounter all year, I'll never know? I can tell you though that there was nothing at all significant about how it made me feel smoking it. It didn't give me super powers, it didn't clear my mind or give me strength. In 90 seconds or so it was gone and I threw the butt in the ashtray out the back without a second thought. That was it. There will be no lamenting from me.

The usual morning routine continued as normal - I drove to the office, worked, had my breakfast, worked, went for coffee break, worked, waited for the lunch bell to go off, went for lunch, came back at 2pm, worked, went to a meeting, worked, had another coffee, worked, went home. The day passed like any other. I did find myself thinking more about being outside as opposed to having a cigarette outside. So when I would phone my other half, I still went outside to make the call. 

I had planned on buying some form of Nicorette but thanks to a lot of different feedback from a lot of people, I have decided to wait and just see what works for me. A lot of people seem to have gone cold turkey and attribute its success to the lack of dependency on nicotine (which apparently only takes 3-5 days to be fully gone from the body). I'm not going to deny myself anything. If I need a patch, I'll get a patch. If I think the inhaler, gum or spray might help then I'll buy them but for now I'm happy out just seeing how it goes.

What has been amazing has been the amount of messages on Twitter/Facebook I've been getting. Each one has made me smile. You'd swear I was coming off cocaine or something but I really do appreciate every single message. My favourite has been the text I got from my Nana just before I left work at 6pm yesterday which read: "Hope you're hanging in there John. Best of Luck. Xx". Sweet. Simple. Perfect.

I left work and headed straight for home where I got changed and went out for a run for an hour in the rain. I spent the entire run just imagining how much easier this is going to be (running) with clear, clean, healthier lungs in a couple of months time. By the time I was home and showered it was 8pm. We had dinner and watched some TV before scooting off to bed at 10.30pm where I had one of the worst nights sleeps ever. I don't know if it was warm (even though it didn't feel it) or if it was the lack of nicotine but I saw 1am, 3am and 5am on the clock before getting up at 6.30am and heading out the door to Bootcamp at 7am.

As of 8am this morning (right now), I have not smoked for 25 hours...

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

I Quit...

This is a photo of a pack of cigarettes...

These are my cigarettes. Being a smoker is something I have never really thought about - I smoke, what's the problem? I had always said I would give up by the time I turned 30. Well, I turned 30 last November and here I am still smoking 20 a day. 

I have often dabbled with the idea of quitting but I have usually brushed the idea off before I've given it a minutes consideration. For the past month however, the thoughts of quitting have been visiting me quite often, like the good angel of consciousness has been sitting on my shoulder constantly prodding me with her fairy wand.

I have finally decided I am going to quit. I have a number of reasons for quitting which primarily focus around my own health but also seeing the very real effect smoking has had on my grandfather has opened my eyes. My grandfather is an amazing man who just last week celebrated his 54th wedding anniversary to my grandmother. When I was leaving home on Sunday, I popped in to say 'Goodbye' before hitting the road and found my grandfather on the couch with a breathing mask on.

Myself & My Grandfather (Photo taken Fathers Day, 2013)

I see so much of myself in my grandfather... As the phrase goes: The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. - and we are proof of that. Anyone who knows me/him will know the similarities I am talking about. Anyway, as I walked away all I could think about was myself. WHY AM I STILL SMOKING? My grandfather has been so proud of my running and every time I see him he asks me how far I've run (in miles). I remember going in to visit him in hospital the same weekend I had run my first 10K in March and he proudly sat up in the bed and told the guy in the bed opposite how I had "just run a marathon". Far from it, but I still appreciated the sentiment.

Twice in the past week, two people have separately said 'You are still smoking? I thought with all the running you were doing you had quit!'. They are right. I should quit. From a selfish point of view, if I don't smoke, my lungs will surely work more efficiently and I'll be a stronger runner for it. I'll have more money, my clothes won't stink and I'll be healthier.

I've made two lists:

The Main Reasons why I should quit

Secondary Reasons why I should quit

I know the next few weeks are going to be tough, but as I have said before in relation to my weight loss... The hardest part of any journey is turning up at the start line. I'm poised and ready for the start whistle to go off so I can start quitting.

My start whistle will go off as soon as I finish this box of cigarettes.

Not to go all Sally Field on ye all but...

I'm seriously chuffed to find out I've made the Long List for the 2013 Blog Awards Ireland where this blog has been nominated for 'Best Personal Blog' and 'Best Newcomer Blog'.

I've only ever been nominated for one thing before and that was an Art Competition when I was in 2nd class (about 20 years ago!). I can't remember my picture but I'm pretty sure it looked something like this:

So now I have to wait until the 8th of September to see if I survive the cut and make it on to the Short List. Regardless, I'm delighted to make the list (along with 170 others... hey, it is the Long List after all). I find this blog a great place to write down what I am thinking and making plans somewhere outside of my head. It's more of a personal journal and I want to thank ye all for taking time out of your day to read it. With that I'll leave ye with the new Lady Gaga song - Applause, which is my applause to you... (and I was looking for an excuse to put this song into a post).

Monday, 12 August 2013

Marathon Training - Week 1

Last week was Week 1 of my 12 week marathon training plan. Below you can see how the week played out. I had planned on running 51k so I was happy to hit 45k. 

Week 1: Done and Dusted

To be honest, if I had run yesterday I would have hit my target but I just didn't have the energy. Well, I say didn't but I'm sure I could have dragged myself off the couch and gone out for half an hour. Instead I spent the day snoozing on the couch and I'm delighted. I needed it! 

So... Here is my plan for Week 2:

The Plan for Week 2

This weeks challenge will be the Long Run on Saturday as to date, I have only ever ran 21 km twice before (both of the Half Marathons). I don't have a route in mind either so will have to get cracking on planning that. Wish me luck :)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Streets of Galway

Yesterday evening saw over 2000 people gather down in the Claddagh for the start of The Streets of Galway 8K race. I have been so looking forward to this race as this is the one race from back before the thoughts of running had even entered my head that I had heard other people talk about. I've said before how cool it was on the two 10K's I've done in Ennis it was to pass my own house. Whats better than passing your own house than running through the streets of the city you love and have lived in for over 13 years.

Race Pack Collected - Ready for Road

This race however threw me off as I didn't have any set person to meet up with beside knowing a load of other people racing. I couldn't make plans to car pool with anyone as I knew I had to leave as soon as the race was over (to head home to celebrate my grandparents 54th wedding anniversary) so I made my own way into the city around 6.30pm and turned up at the wedged start line about 10 minutes before the race started.

Luckily I met Phil (or rather Phil saw me) so I joined him in the holding pen before the race started. I couldn't get over the amount of people there but was glad to be with Phil near the front of the pack. At 7pm on the nose the starting gun was fired and we were all let off to run the streets of Galway.

And we're off... (Pic taken from the Maree AC Facebook Page)

The route brought us around the Spanish Arch, up Merchants Road and through Eyre Square where it was lovely to see loads of people lining the route cheering on people passing by. From Eyre Square we ran down Eglington Street past the Court House and over the Salmon Weir bridge. We ran around the Cathedral and up to UCHG, before swinging a left and running straight out Mary's Road to Salthill.

The biggest surprise of the whole race was how far 1K really is?! When you know a place so well and are so used to it, I found it seemed to take ages before we would hit the next kilometre sign. The half way (4K) point was at the turn up to Devon Park where from there we ran along Dr Mannix Road, Leisureland and back down the Prom to the Claddagh Hall where I crossed the finish line at the 38m 30.

My official chip time was 38 minutes 15 seconds which I am delighted about. While not my best performance it certainly wasn't shabby. I just didn't have the energy to ramp up my pace at any point. The being said, I've started my 12 week Marathon Training so have been covering a lot of KMs this week (the most I've ever done in a single week), so like the Farmer at the end of Babe - today I'm lying on the couch with my feet up, looking down at them saying 'That'll do Pig... That'll do!'

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Men Who Made Us Thin

Did anyone watch 'The Men Who Made Us Thin' on BBC last night? It was Episode 1 of a 4 part series which "investigates the connections between obesity and weight loss, and confronts some of the men making a fortune from our desire to become thin". This episode focused purely on diets and examined the scientific reasons why so many diets fail long-term and why - "in spite of this failure - people go back to them again and again."

As we watched the program, my other half asked me why I was watching, as all the presenter seemed to harp on about was the doom and gloom of weight loss programs and how they are all destined to fail. He (the presenter) met with the heads of Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, Atkins and The Durkin Diet, but his biggest gripe seemed to be with Weight Watchers. I suspect however this was more so due to his access to current and past employees rather than picking on WW for the sake of it.

The main argument of the program was that diets are doomed to fail on the long term - and as we, the consumers, assume the failure of the diet is down to us and not the 'flawed' diet itself, we will continue to go back over and over. He purported that diets actually do not want us to lose weight and go off and live our lives happy but rather they portray how easy it is to lose weight without any care for the maintenance/changes that occur once we lose weight/hit goal.

Good or Evil? 

The programme pushed (repeatedly) the following message: Any weight loss obtained through a diet will be re-gained within 5 years. Their main point to prove this was using a study conducted in the 40s (The Minnesota Starvation Experiment - Link Here) where 36 men were made live in famine like conditions on 1500 cals a day over 6 months. The study concluded that "prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis" and found that all of the participants returned to pre-experiement weight as soon as the experiment was finished.

According to the presenter of the program:
‘Diets don’t work, people always have to come back to do them, so weight watchers is a brilliant business model.’
Using research carried out by the NHS, they found that when Weight Watchers was offered to 1,000 overweight patients by their GP, 885 people didn't take up on the offer. Of the 115 who did, only 16 of them remained at Goal Weight after 5 years. The conclusion of this was that 16 out of 1,000 shows how ineffective Weight Watchers is.

Now... I am not employed by or do I work to promote Weight Watchers, but I found the documentary to repeatedly strike blows at WW. I can only speak from personal experience when I say that it has worked for me. Will I return to my pre-WW weight within the next 5 years...? You tell me. How can any diet be held accountable for every individual that subscribes to this programs weight-loss over a 5 year period. How does any organisation do the same? Alcoholics, Drug Users etc all face the same problem. There is no single cure for Addiction (be it to food, drugs, drink, whatever) - only possible avenues to conquer your addiction.

The program concluded with the following statement (not from the presenter I might add but from a professional dietician):
"The only thing that makes sense is to look at your diet, look at your activity levels and say, ok, would I be a healthier, happier person if I ate a more balanced diet? Would I be happier if I exercised 3-4 times a week? The answer to all of those questions us probably yes. That should be what we’re asking ourselves, not how can I make the scale show a smaller number."
This is the reason why I personally believe my 'diet' isn't going to fail and I will never be 19st again. Despite my journey starting as 'Operation Think Skinny', my journey has actually become 'Live Healthy'. Weight Watchers has given me the framework and tools to kick start my weight loss but I will never attribute my weight loss entirely to Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers enabled the 19st 2lb me to get the ball rolling on changing myself but at the end of the day:

I am the only person in control of what I consume.
I am the only person who choses what I buy at the Supermarket.
I am the only person who makes me turn up at weigh-in every Tuesday.

It is not Weight Watchers (the organisation) problem if I eat ten jumbo chocolate bars or if I stop turning up for weigh-in. It is Weight Watchers problem however if I sign up to their program and the program itself doesn't work / is flawed / caused health implications etc. The program never says at any point that the weight-loss program doesn't work. I feel its my own responsibility to make it work, mine and mine alone. Anyone who says it doesn't work is wrong - a picture paints a thousand words. This is my picture - Galway Races 2012 vs Galway Races 2013:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

T minus 12 weeks...

A lot can happen in twelve weeks... It can be the shortest or the longest period of time depending on your situation. I can imagine for someone waiting to tell their friends/family that they are pregnant, it must feel like an eternity while for the student just finished their Christmas Exams will probably get a land when they find their Summer Exams are starting next week.

The Dublin Marathon is 12 weeks away... I'm hoping in my case it is more like expectant mother as opposed to the partying student. The one thing I have most definitely learned from this past weekend is the importance of preparation. I had prepared for the Clare Burren Half Marathon and was confident going into it while I was definitely a lot more shaky going into yesterdays Rock n Roll Half.

I know the next twelve weeks are going to fly by and the Marathon will be here before I know it. That is why I have a plan! I have been winging my running for the past few months - constantly pushing myself further, for longer, faster. I need a proper training plan suited to my needs for the next few months to get me across the finish line on October 28th. 

Thankfully I found the DCM 2013: Mentored Novices Thread over on (link here). The thread is being overlooked by the wonderful career_move who is always on hand to answer and questions us novices may have. I have adapted his 18 week plan (i.e. skipped the first 6 weeks) into my own 12 week plan following his structure and plan for the next while. I've even done up a fancy colourful Timetable:

I'll be updating my progress weekly on here - I'm actually quite excited to get tucked in and push myself from 13.1 miles up to 26.2 by the end of October!

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Rock & Roll Dublin Half Marathon

I had signed up for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon the day after I had finished my first Half Marathon (back in May) - Yep, I must be glutton for punishment. Having finished the Clare Burren Half in just over 2 hours (2h 1m 10s), I was keen to keep on going and continue to try to improve. The Clare Burren had been tough on my knees but I wasn't going to let that stop me - hence why I signed up immediately for my next Half challenge... Which was today!

I headed to Dublin on Saturday (hungover) and collected my race pack on Sunday afternoon at the Fitness Expo in the DT Hotel. I'm not going to lie, I've been extremely apprehensive about this race for the past two weeks. I think since I came back from holidays (where I didn't run for 2 weeks), and with the increase in temperature for the past few weeks, I've found it difficult to get back into the swing of things.

Race Pack

The longest run I had managed to clock in the month of July was 15K and I had found that quite difficult. I was having one of my frequent 'Mind over matter' battles with myself in my head and it was only last night when I was on the phone to my other half that he convinced me to just run the race for the race - It doesn't matter that I beat a time or not as I can take what I've learned from this going forward. With those words resonating around in my mind, I slept sound last night.

That was until my alarm went off at 6am and I began my usual pre-race ritual. I had breakfast, a coffee and a shower to wake myself up properly and Brad, Rob and I headed in to Stephens Green just before 8am. Despite having pee'd about 4 times before we left, I found myself needing to pee again just before the race. It's probably nerves but I queued for 10 or so minutes for a port-a-loo (which are evil) before making my way to Corral #8 - my assigned corral for my estimated finish time of 2 hours.

Myself and Brad before the race

I have to say, despite the volume of people at the start line (14,000) - this has been the best organised race I've taken part of. The baggage drop, the announcements, the line-up was all executed without a hitch. The race started bang on 8.30am and we were moved up along the empty pens while we waited for our whistle to go. I was a bit thrown with the fact the 2 hour markers were at the top of Corral 6 as I was planning on using them as my pacers for the race. They ran off into the distance while we were still waiting for the go!

The race took us from Stephens Green, along the quays, past Heuston and into Stephens Green with a band playing at every mile marker. The volume of people running the race certainly helped get me through the first third of the race as there was always something/someone different to look at. I loved the whole atmosphere of the race as there were a loads of people stopping to take photos of various landmarks like Áras an Uachtaráin or the Four Courts while others were running in fancy dress which really livened the general mood of the race.

As I ran through Phoenix Park and passed the first of many water stations, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to bring any gels with me - big mistake! Luckily as we turned out of the Park at Mile 7 (half way), they were handing out Gel Packs. I've read one too many horror stories from people online about trying something new on race day and it ending in disaster (usually involving them kacking themselves). I decided to disregard all of that and chowed down on the gel pack.

The second half of the race (from Mile 7 onward) was really enjoyable. We were back on the main roads around Chapelizod and Kilmainham. One of the runners ahead of me included a guy dressed as Pamela Anderson which really lifted the crowd as we ran through the streets. People were laughing and applauding and the mood just seemed to carry me along. Well, that and the two muscle-y tattooed men who were running in front of me :)

As I passed Mile 11 I knew I still had some fuel left in the tank so decided to push myself that little bit harder. I plowed on happy out and was excited to turn the corner and see the giant clock ticking away. Knowing I was so close to the finish, I ramped up to 5th gear only to realise that the electronic clock was in fact not the finish line. As I had already gained momentum, I decided to keep going at that speed as the end line had to have been just around the corner... It was around about 3 more corners. Either way, I crossed the line at 1h 57m (race time) which well exceeded my expectations.

My official chip time for the race: 1 hour 51 minutes 0 seconds

My brother Davy, Rob and Jonathan were waiting at the finish line which were a welcome sight. I was a bit of a sweaty mess but gave each of them a giant hug before tucking into a banana and energy bar they were handing out at beyond the finish line. We cheered Brad on as he passed the finish line a few minutes later before heading to Starbucks to get some much needed coffee and a chat.

All in all I'm absolutely delighted with today. I'm proud of my time and even prouder considering how unprepared I had felt for the race. I surprised myself today. I now have a few days recovery and smaller runs before my next race... which is this coming Saturday! Ah well, no rest for the wicked eh!

Post Race Delight :)