Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Run Streak: Mission Accomplished

Day 31... DONE!

Run Streak... DONE!

How I feel right now

I signed up for Run Streak to challenge myself. I wanted to see if it was possible for me to push myself out the door every day. I wanted to see if I'd get tired or sore without rest. I wanted to see if I could do it. And I have! I've spent over 20 hours out on the road this month covering 240km over the past 31 days.

My Nike Dashboard for December

I ran on Christmas Day.
I ran on the day of my Godson's Christening.
I ran the day Met Eireann issued a Red Weather Warning.
I ran the morning after my work Christmas Party.
I got up and ran one morning at 6am.
I went out running at 11pm one night.
I ran through hail stones.
I ran through puddles.
I ran for at least 30 minutes every day this month.

Right now I feel like Beyonce. No, not a strong independent sassy bootylicious billionaire lady. I feel like I have had a glimpse into Beyonce's time management scheduler or something. Now while I didn't get the chance to drop a surprise visual album on y'all this month, over the past month:

How many things have I missed out on due to running: None
What has running prevented me from doing: Nothing
How many plans had I to cancel/change because of running: None

So there you have it. 31 days of running. Challenge complete! With a new 10K personal best under my best along the way too. I feel this challenge has shown how far I have come. Considering this time last year I had never run before in my life to finishing the year with a 31 day run streak feels pretty good to me!

Day 31 of Run Streak - DONE!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

99 Days to Go...

On Christmas Day I bought myself a present. No it wasn't a PS4 or an iPad (although if anyone does want to buy me something, I'd love either please and thank you!). I bought myself entry into the 2014 Connemarathon. From today, I have 14 weeks (99 days) to get ready and I am so excited.

Connemarathon describe it as follows: The popular sport of long-distance running is transformed for runners and walkers in the dramatic setting of mountains, glacier lakes, rugged green-brown landscape which winds in and around the challenging mountain wilderness of Galway in the west of Ireland. The course meanders past bogs, hills, lakes, and the Twelve Pin mountains rising up over the great expanse of Killary Lough, through the quiet village of Leenane, around the Maam Turk Mountains and all the way back up to Maam Cross

Over 3,200 people will descent on Connemara on April 6th 2014 to take part in either the Half, Full or Ultra Marathon. Personally speaking, I love Connemara and not that I'm biased or anything (apart from The Burren), I think its the most beautiful places in Ireland. I remember when I was travelling around New Zealand thinking "Wow this is so amazing". Then I realised that we have the same sights at home, we just don't appreciate it as it's on our doorstep. I'm so looking forward to this, although the course profile is scaring me a little.

This is going to be a whole different ballgame to the Dublin Marathon for a number of reasons. There will be very little/no spectators. There will be a lot of ups and downs. I don't know anyone else doing it. I won't have Phil or Brad to fall back on for reassurance. Also as it won't be my first marathon I won't be able to rely on the same "Cmon John prove yourself wrong, you can do this!" I did back in October. 

Its only now looking back at my training for Dublin that I realise how much I enjoyed the training aspect of it. I loved following a plan, going out and marking my runs off my training plan. I loved the increase in dinner sizes. I loved those long runs that completely drained me. On the plus side, unlike training for Dublin I'll hopefully find the evenings will be getting longer.

This marathon is part of my 2014 goals (I'll post about them later this week) but as I have said before, I feel so lucky to be looking at this not as a task but rather a challenge. Marathon Number 2 - here I come!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Fields of Athenry

I had signed up for the Fields of Athenry back in November before I'd committed to the Run Streak. I had thought it would be a nice way to keep me in check over Christmas Day as I'd have a run the following day but little did I know at the time of signing up it would be my 26th day in a row running. I was feeling excited but a bit achey heading into Stephens Day. Between the double serving of dinner on Christmas Day and the previous 25 days pounding the roads in my legs, it was with apprehension I left Ennis at 8:30am on St Stephen's morning bound for the Fields of Athenry.

I arrived at the Registration Hall (after a skiddy journey up on the icy roads) at about 10.15am where the announcement was made that we wouldn't be starting until 11.30am and the kids race was cancelled due to the weather conditions. The hall was buzzing as it filled with people either collecting their registration bibs or hiding from the freezing cold outside.

Fields of Athenry Registration
(Pic taken from Athenry AC Twitter @athenryac)

Inside I met Phil, Noel and a few other people I knew so it was nice to catch up while we waited to be called to the start line. When we were called out at around 11.15, we all gathered alongside the train station. I lined up with the 45 minute pacer which I felt was a smidge optimistic. One of my Goals for 2013 is to run a Sub 20 min 5K and a Sub 45 min 10K. I figured I would stay with the 45 minute pacer for as long as possible. My last 10K at the beginning of December was just over 48 minutes while my PB for a 10K was back in June when I finished the Clare 10K in 46 minutes 41s. 

The race started bang on 11.30am and we were off. I started off nice and steady and found myself slightly ahead of the 45 minute pacer by the first KM sign. I was clocking just under 4m 30s/km for the first 5km and although I could see the 45 minute pacer behind me, it was the first time I actually thought to myself "Oh my GOD... I could do this in under 45 minutes".

Start of the Fields of Athenry
(Pic taken from Athenry AC Twitter @athenryac)

With that in mind, I kept on going. I passed the half way point with 22m 25s on the clock (so I had a whopping 5s to spare). I was starting to feel it all over but kept on going. This race really made me realise how much I do love running shorter distances like the 5K and 10K, something I didn't get the chance to do much of the latter half of this year. I made a promise to myself to work on this for the first half of 2014. 

As I passed the 7K marker, the 45 minute pacer overtook me, and with that about 30 people running with the pacer. It was very disheartening to see the pacer increase the distance between you and them but I always kept her in my sights. I knew passing the 9K marker that I needed to increase my pace to claw back at the 30s offset between my current projected end time and the 45 minute goal I had set myself...

Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Despite my best efforts and pushing as hard as I could, I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 45 minutes and 9 seconds. I experienced such a mix of emotions. Raging with myself I didn't push myself that little bit more to knock those extra 9s off my time but at the same time so proud of my time. I knocked over 3 minutes off my 10K from earlier this month and over a 90s off my previous 10K best. Also considering this was my 26th day running straight (clocking up over 200km), I'm well pleased!

Thumbs Up for Effort

All in all, I loved it. I loved the crowd, I loved finishing under the arch in the middle of Athenry, I loved the people wrapped in hats and scarfs applauding us on route, I loved the coffee after the finish line. I'm so proud of how far I have come this year and I reminded myself of one of my favourite quotes as I drove home:

It never gets easier - you just get better at it.

I could NEVER have imagined I'd be where I am today this time last year. In fact, back in March when I crossed the finish line in Kinvara at 61 minutes I thought "wow, thats the best I'll ever do" yet here I am constantly surprising and surpassing myself. A 45 minute 10K then was as far off then as I see a Sub 40 minute 10K now. The only difference between then and now is... I know its something I can achieve if I work at it.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Journey and a Single Step

Happy Christmas! 

Yesterday was amazing. Not only was it Christmas Day, I also hit a pretty significant milestone. Its kinda funny how things come full circle - I don't know if you can remember that far back, but last December I wrote one of my first blog posts for The Skinny Doll called 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'. That quote has never rang more true than it does now. Yesterday morning, as I got home from my Christmas Day run, my Nike App looked like this:

1600km... That's 1000 miles! I honestly could never have imagined what a thousand miles looks like or how far 1000 miles is (I googled it and it's basically Galway to Berlin). As I ran around Ennis yesterday morning, a few people beeped me. I'd like to imagine it was because they were cheering me on, they know how far I'd come and how hard I've worked at both my weight and fitness. In reality it more had to do with the fact I had a Santa Hat on and was running in the rain I'd imagine.

Knowing that I was going to cross the 1000 mile threshold by the time I sat down to Christmas dinner really spurred me on. I shouted Happy Christmas to the older lady getting into her cute red Micra (probably heading to mass), I waved back at the car where the kids turned and looked back out the rear view mirror at me as they passed... but then something happened that really made me think.

Not one but two ambulances whizzed past. Imagine, at 10am on Christmas morning needing an ambulance. I find a certain grounding in things like that. Here I am out for a run on Christmas morning trying to suppress that little voice in my head saying "It's Christmas, take it easy, you don't need to run that far/fast" while other people are in need of a ambulance. 

I do feel extremely lucky to be where I am today. Over the course of my running journey which started with a single 30 second run, I have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. 

Post Christmas Run

I hope however you spent your Christmas, I hope you had a happy one. I also know that new year is fast approaching and many people (myself included) are making their lists of resolutions for the new year. My advice to you is simple... Start small. A single step is all that's needed. Who knows where it's going to take you. In fact does it really matter where it takes you as long as you are going in the direction you want. In my case I have been so lucky to find something I really really love in running. And while I'll never win a race or compete in the Olympics - the biggest kick I get from running is beating myself. You are your only competition. 

Now, enough of my ranting on, it's Stephens Day and I'm off to Athenry to take part in the Fields of Athenry and run off some of the Christmas indulgences from yesterday. Ho ho ho!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Waiting Room

If you happen to find yourself in a GP's waiting room over the next few weeks (not that I'm wishing that on anyone), have a flick through the December/January issue of The Waiting Room and you'll see ME inside :)

The Waiting Room

Weight Watchers HQ just sent me a copy of the magazine which has been out since the beginning of the month. I had known I was in this issue as another friend of mine on Twitter (Thanks Alan) had seen me in it and sent me a pic. So, here's me:

I still can't get used to the fact that that's me in the picture. I'm one of those 'Before After' pic guys. Kinda mental really. I also loved that Hilary & Margaret from WW HQ also sent me a lovely Christmas card. They are looking forward to seeing me set and smash my 2014 goals which was such a lovely thing to say. Suppose I better get thinking about my 2014 goals :) 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Run Streak: Days 12 - 20

So I'm almost 2/3s of the way through the Run Streak ("run a minimum of 30 mins (or more) per day from 1st December until the 31st December.") and I said I'd give a little update.

Day 12: Post Work 6km run in the rain. Day 13: Wasn't working so went for a nice 11km run in the Coast Road and back out the motorway before heading off to my work Christmas Party. Day 14: 8am 5km run the morning after a night out is NEVER a good idea. No further comment. Day 15: 8km run and back home just in time for the X Factor final.

Day 16 has been my favourite run so far. Myself and Phil ran 8km from his house out to Tawin Island in the dark - the sky was clear so the light of the moon was more than enough to light the way. Its rare that I run with someone else and have a chat so really enjoyed it. Day 17 was a wet one, ran 6km at 10pm an hour after dinner - not a fan of late night runs but I had to get my run in somewhere.

Day 18 was a 7am 6km run before work and boy was I delighted to get my run in early. The storm hit while at work which flooded the entrance to our estate (I had to abandon the car in Oranmore village and walk home through the flooding). The wind would have made the whole thing impossible to run so I felt extra warm and cosy wrapped on the couch Wednesday evening while the storm battered away outside.

Day 19 was a 5.5km post-work run through hail stones which made for an unenjoyable run but I ran none the less. Day 20, the day I finished up work for Christmas and ran 5.5km before heading off to babysit my nephews.

Someone at work must be reading my blog as I got this from my Secret Santa and no-one I know has owned up - NICE ONE :)

Thursday, 19 December 2013

... Where your mouth is!

There is a well known saying: Put your money where your mouth is. 

You know and I know what it means... It means that if you really mean something, put something of value on the line for it - anyone can talk about something and have all the best intentions but how can I "guarantee" as best possible that this will come to fruition. By putting my money where my mouth is.

So here's the deal... I will donate €200 to charity on the evening of January 7th, 2014 if I weigh more on that day then I did last Tuesday at Weight Watchers. [12st 11.5lbs]

€200 wager!

I promise you, this is not something I am taking lightly. I think €200 is steep enough to give me the kick I need to keep myself on track. Everyone knows how tough (and long) January is, so the thoughts of being down €200 hurts.

I have picked January 7th as this is the date of my next WW meeting. I weigh in on a Tuesday as seen as the following two Tuesdays are Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, class doesn't resume until the 7th. I have posted a photo here to show what I am on my home scale (12st 12ish) which is close enough to my WW weigh in this week (12st 11.5lbs).

I do believe in the Yin &Yang of life, so for that reason I am going to add another incentive other than weight to the mix. If I am lighter than the 5lbs I put on in the last week (so that means weighing in under 12st 7lbs on January 7th), I am going to treat myself with something I have wanted for a long time but never treated myself to - A night away in the 5* Solis Lough Eske in Donegal.

So there you have it. That's my plan. Its no Excel Sheet tracking points and allocating myself 3 Rose Sweets a day along with a Skinny Vanilla Latte for a treat. I am a grown responsible adult. I am responsible for the choices I make in every part of my life - home, work, food. This is in my control. Everything I eat is in my control. The sooner I realise this and stop blaming the time of year, my lack of will power, the smell of food wafting from the kitchen or whatever excuse I come up with in my head - the better.

I am going to enjoy Christmas, enjoy the 2 weeks off work, enjoy meeting with friends, nights out and evenings in front of the fire. I am also going to enjoy running, keeping fit, active and healthy.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Scrougey McBahHumbug

This is the last working week of 2013. Not to be all Scrougey McBahHumbug but I've realised that today three weeks, I'll be sitting back at my desk wondering where the Christmas went - probably in a blur of nights out, stacked dinner plates, boxes of Roses and midnight Turkey Sandwiches. I don't for one second want to wish Christmas away, I'm just thinking about the longer term implications of a Christmas breakout.

Nyom nyom nyom

Last night was the last weight-in of 2013 and I was UP FIVE LBS. Yep, you read that right! That's only one week's damage. Yes I had my work Christmas Party and a family Christening, yes there was Mince Pies brought into the office and yes there was an open box of Roses left in the canteen all week but that's not good enough. I could be sitting at my desk in 3 weeks time over a STONE heavier if this trend continues. That is not what I want! Now while I am all for not self deprivation or spending your Christmas looking at a single bit of broccoli on your plate, I need to get a grip on myself and stop myself from spiraling out of control.

I'm raging with myself after this weeks gain. I've survived worse (and come out lighter). I just think its really hard to resist temptation when you stare it straight in the face every time you turn around. Thinking about the next three weeks I need to decide what I want. Am I going to say 'Feic it its Christmas' and just all my cares into the wind or am I going to try regain control.

The next 21 days are going to be tough - there are going to be so many choices that will present themselves to me. Think about it... There will be:
  • 21 breakfasts
  • 21 lunches
  • 21 dinners
  • 21 nights out/visiting friends/in front of the TV
  • 21 days at home 

Throw in the countless:
  • Open boxes of Roses/Celebrations/Quality Street
  • Mince Pies
  • Irish Coffees
  • Tins of Biscuits

I need a plan!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Run Streak : Days 1 - 11

Seen as we are a third of the way through a month, I figure now is an appropriate time to talk about my Run Streak. The Run Streak Challenge as set up by Amphibian King sounded quite straight forward: 

"to run a minimum of 30 mins (or more) per day from 1st December until the 31st December."

And here is how I've been getting on:


It's been tough, but I can't tell if that's due to the nature of the month thats in it (December) or just trying to find the time. There always seems to be something on, be it a Christmas Party or a dinner, a night out or friends calling over. I keep having to remind myself of that quote I've posted here before "If its important to you you'll find a way, otherwise you'll find an excuse".

Last Thursday for example, I had to set my alarm for 6am to go for a run before Bootcamp at 7am as I knew I wouldn't get a chance after work that evening. Another day I went out for my run after 11pm when I got back from a play in the Town Hall. It's been all go but I'm loving it.

The further into the challenge I'm getting, the more excited I am getting about reaching the end. It will definitely keep me motivated over Christmas. I finish up work on the 20th and see already how easy it could be to let everything slip for the week, so that's why I'm looking forward to running with actual day-light (I so can't wait for the Summer again). 

Today is Day 12 - I haven't been for my run yet today but I'm already looking forward to it :) I've already seen the benefits on the scales and I'm rekindling my love of running. I've run more this month than I did across all of November. I have to keep reminding myself that the more I run, the more of these I can enjoy :)

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Santa Dash - Ho ho ho!

I had signed up for the Santa Dash a few weeks back to try and kick me out of my PMB's (Post Marathon Blues).  'Shur what's 10K in a Santa suit' says he to himself smugly. Oh boy, how wrong was I! 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I learn something from every single race. This race has thought me that the past is behind you - all you can do is prepare for whats ahead of you. As you know, my November was a bit slack (in terms of Weight Watching and running). In fact, I hadn't run further than 5k since the Marathon at the end of October so I was a little bit apprehensive going in to this 10K but clearly slightly deluded as I thought I could beat my previous 10K PB (46 minutes).

Claddagh Hall, December 1st

Myself and a gang from work met up at the Claddagh Hall last Sunday morning at 11am where we picked up our timing chips, bibs and Santa Suits. I have to say, the banter was great and there was a lovely pre-race vibe in the air as Christmas tunes were blasted from speakers. It was lovely to see so many people there with their dogs (some in Christmas attire), prams, young children.

Ready... Steady... HO!

The race kicked off bang on 12 noon as Christmas music pumped out from the DJ  box at the start line. My only issue with the race was the fact the 10K was the 5K route twice (not what had been advertised on the website). So as you can imagine, it was extremely disheartening to run right back to the start line only to repeat the loop again. Thinking back at other races/runs, there is something therapeutic about reaching the half way point. I always have that "from here on I'm homeward bound" approach, however in this instance, half way was home - so I had to turn on my heels and head straight back out the route I had just come.

The second 5K was much harder than the first as I spent the whole time passing people in white bibs (5K'ers) heading home. I could feel myself starting to slow down as I came up to the 7.5K mark which meant from there it was plain sailing along the Galway Bay coastline to the finish line. I crossed the line with over 48 minutes on the clock so I knew I hadn't broken my previous 10K land-speed record of 46 minutes but I was happy.

Happy to be finished!

The best part of the whole experience was the Santa costumes! While mine started to fall apart (the belt was broken before we even took off), it certainly did add a twist from your standard run. I don't think anyone crossed the finish line with their crotches still intact but we had some laugh looking at what remained of peoples costumes. Some were missing beards, others their hats. I had a beard/earphone tanglement half way around the track which ended in me pulling off the moustache part by accident.

Post race, a lot of us stayed in costume (because we had nothing else to change in to) and headed to the Beer Tent at the Galway Markets. Following a quick detour via the food stalls, we celebrated a great run. This is the second run I have run through work, my first being the Kinvara 10K - my very first 10K back in March. There was something very fulfilling about running with the people who had been there when I took my very first step. There is something kinda frustrating about running with people who you still can't catch up with... but I will :)


The Santa Dash was my first 10K since June. It most definitely won't be as long before my next 10K - The Fields of Athenry on December 26th. Ho ho ho!