Saturday, 25 January 2014

Tuam 8K - First Race of the Year

Last Sunday (19th of January) was my first race of the year, the Tuam 8K. I was really excited for this one actually as it had been a few weeks since Athenry and I was excited to get my 2014 race counter off the mark.

I had asked around everyone had said they were doing it *eyeballs Phil, Brad and Noel* but over the course of the weekend I found out Brad hadn't signed up, Phil was away and Noel hurt his knee. I lay in bed at noon on Sunday morning thinking "If Gordon cancels, I'm totally staying in bed". I sent a text to see if he was still in and lay there enjoying how comfy my bed was when *beep beep* "Yep, see you there" message came back from Gordon.

I arrived in Tuam an hour before the race where after getting lost, found my way to the church and met Yvonne and Gordon. We picked up our registration pack (and free socks) and headed down to the start line where people were starting to gather.

Ready for it!

The race started bang at 2.30pm and I took off like a hare out of the traps at a greyhound track. I was as surprised as I'd say my legs were (they just didnt have time to process) when I hit the first kilometre marker at just over 4 minutes (making it my fastest km ever!). I knew I was going to have to slow it up a bit or I'd be dead by half way.

Pic from Tuam AC Facebook

I thoroughly enjoyed this run. I knew once I hit the half way point it was pretty much a straight run back into Tuam from there so I took the boredom of a straight run and spent time doing what I do best on a run... Pick a person and go after them. Now this can be risky as you have no idea what the other person is like as a runner. They could be taking it easy for a bit about to ramp back up into a sprint, or likewise you could pass them and then become complacent only for them to pass you out again further in the race.

There was a woman at the Fields of Athenry who finished just ahead of me (I had spent most of the Athenry race beside or just behind her) and here she was again just in front of me as we passed the 7K mark. I had set myself the mini mission to pass her out by the finish line. I stayed right behind her as we came up the finish line but with a last burst of energy she took off and crossed the finish line before me. Moral of the Story: Find a new game to occupy my mind during a race. 

I crossed the finish line at 35:55s, knocking over half a minute off my best 8K time! Gordon also ran his best 8K time. Delighted with ourselves after the race, we scooted off into Tuam and stuffed our faces with burgers :) The best side-effect from running is the guilt free munching you can indulge in post run.

New 8K PB

Monday, 13 January 2014


I was out for a run over the weekend and this happened:

I am one year running. I checked - It was back on January 12th, 2013 at 8am when I ran for the first time in my life. Over the past year I have laced up my runners 208 times and covered 1673km.

It's mental really!

I've said it before but I really do think I hit jackpot when I found running. I love it. Running has helped me lose weight, gain self confidence and become healthier. I've found a way for me to have some 'me time'. I do some of my best thinking while out for a run. I can also use the time to switch off and not think. 

My very first run, I was hitting 9'13''/km. I ran 3K. Since then I have run:
  • 6 x 5Ks
  • 2 x 8Ks
  • 6 x 10Ks
  • 3 x Half Marathons
  • 1 3/4 Marathon
  • 1 Marathon
I have gone through three pairs of runners, gathered numerous medals, made new friends and reconnected with old friends. 

I simply cannot convey how much running has changed my life. I'm over a thousand miles away from the person I was this time last year. I've grown, I've changed for the better. 

It's true what they say, the finish line is only the starting point for the next goal. I could never have imagined running would have brought me on such an epic ride. While its super to look back, I'm looking back purely to see how far I've come. Its a new year and I am ready to give 100% to my running in 2014. 

My first goal for the year has appeared on the horizon. The Connemarathon is a mere 12 weeks away... I'm excited for it, but I better get to get working on it. 

Selfie on finding out I was running one year - Run #208

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Its time... to face... the scales!

Thursday before Christmas I placed a bet (See post here). It was with myself but still... The bet was simple: 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]

Today was D-Day and I knew that at 6pm, I'd probably be sending €200 from my already tragic looking bank account to some deserving charity. I was prepared and willing to do this, a promise is a promise after all.

If I'm honest, there wasn't a single open Roses tin that I passed untouched. In fact, one of the last things that one of the girls at work said to me on the day we closed for Christmas was "Be careful, every time I've seen you this week you have a rose or a biscuit in your mouth". Thanks a million for that Lumi! 

On the outside I was like:

But on the inside I was really like:

Anyway, Christmas came and went, as did the selection boxes, alcohol and midnight snacks. New Years came and went, as the wine poured and the tins of biscuits were devoured. I was essentially like this:

But I was running every day so everything had to be ok right? WRONG! Over the weekend, while at a friend's house, I stood up on their electronic weighing scales. It was the same fear you have when checking your bank balance after a night out that you can't remember. I hadn't weighed myself over Christmas so when the scale showed up at 13st 1lb, I was like:

That meant (assuming those scales were correct) I was officially 1st heavier than I was back in September. Well nothing jump-starts me more than the thoughts of being up & losing money. With Aisling, Anton & Damien I headed off up Diamond Hill in Connemara, heading back to bootcamp and got out for a run (after taking 6 days off). I was back on track... 

But was it too late? I was slightly terrified heading back to WW tonight. I was hoping the 4lbs I was seeing on the electronic scale would have magically disappeared as maybe the scales weren't calibrated or something. I did debate pushing going back to class until the next week but no, it was time to face the scales *cue dramatic music in my head*

Phil was as welcoming as always to see me. She knew there was money on the line with tonight's weigh-in, so she blocked the number on the scale so I couldn't see it. Next thing, Phil gave me a giant hug and congratulations... I WAS DOWN HALF A POUND!

I survived Christmas. 
My tragic bank balance remains at tragic (and not malnourished).
My bet worked. It kept me on track.

Friday, 3 January 2014

How do you know what you don't know?

This isn't one of those motivational 'how to set goals' post, instead it's a simple question that I am struggling to come to answer myself: How do you know what you don't know?

To frame this another way: I know the things I know, and while I may not be an expert at these things, these are still things I know. For example: Computers. I am a computer programmer and I have a very good working knowledge of computers. I work on a computer all day and am always tinkering and trying new things out. While I wouldn't call myself a hardware expert (which is a specific knowledge subset of computers) I still know about them and know how to research/increase my knowledge around this area when applicable. 

There are also things I know I don't know about - take Archery for example. I know Archery exists, I know it is a sport and I know it involves a bow and arrow and target but apart from that I couldn't tell you anything else about it as I don't know. I don't know how it is scored, I don't know how you play/win or if it's an Olympic sport and I couldn't tell you one famous archer.

The things I know can be summed up as follows:

You might be thinking: Where the hell is he going with this? but stick with me. How do I know there isn't something out there, in the great big purple circle of 'Things I don't know' that I could love. It could be a certain type of music I've never heard before, it could be a leisure activity or a new career. It could be an artist or a food, something or someone arty. I don't know though because it exists in the land of Things I don't know.

Using running as an example, this time last year I knew nothing about running. I didn't know there were different kinds of running shoes depending on the surface you ran on. I didn't know you had to fuel as you ran long distances. I didn't know about or how to stretch. These are the things I didn't know about but there are also experiences I didn't know about either. I didn't know the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing a finish line or the feeling of pride when something you thought was impossible became possible through your own work.

These were all things I now know but 12 months ago didn't even know they existed. These were discovered through exploring that overlapping circle bit - the things I know I don't know. I do feel extremely lucky to have hit something I love in finding running. I have tried other things in the past 12 months, for example I went to a Yoga workshop a few months back. I had never done Yoga and wanted to try it, and while I enjoyed it, I don't have the time right now to pursue it - and that's OK. That's my decision right now and while I may revisit it again in the future, at least I know I tried it.

A few people have already asked me what my New Years Resolutions/Goals are for 2014 and if I'm honest with you, I don't have any general goals. I don't really want to set any broad year-long goals as I know I work better setting short/medium term goals in a specific area that I can work towards while getting continuous feedback. 

What I mean by that is - Instead of signing up for a new 4 year undergraduate degree, sign up for a 12 week online course. Instead of signing a 12 month gym contract in January, sign up to a month-by-month Bootcamp. I always have these fantastic intentions that often never get realised as I get bored/change my mind. By taking small steps, you can decide if it's still for you and can ramp up or withdraw at little cost and quickly. If I sign up for a €50 monthly bootcamp and don't like it or find I'm not getting my money's worth, simple - don't sign up next month. If I've paid €600 for the gym (€50 monthly direct debit), and I stop going - that guilt will hang over me.

Last year I wanted a bike as I was going to start cycling as part of my fitness regime. Instead of rushing out to buy a new bike, I borrowed one from a friend (Thanks Michelle!). The bike sat in the shed for THREE months before I gave it back. I didn't go out on it once. And while this may comes back to the How do I know I wouldn't have excelled at cycling and loved it even more than I love running now?, there has to be some pay off. You can't follow every potential lead that comes your way - you have to decide which you want to pursue.

I am not going to make a list of non-specific New Years Goals such as the typical 'Do something new' or 'Be more creative', I am making myself the following goal: This month, try something new/different. This can be linked to something I already do e.g. Run an off-road race. This can also be something I have never done before e.g. Attend a Pottery Making class.

Just to contradict everything I've said before this, my Goal for 2014 is: NOT to have goals but to have experiences. To expose and make known to myself the things I don't know. It's impossible to know the things you don't know, but I can scratch the surface of many things I know I don't know about and see if these lead to me learning about things I don't know. My Goal for 2014 will not be to reach a goal because of the person it will make me once I reach it but rather to understand the person I am becoming.

For the first time in my life (I'm 31 years old), I like the person I am becoming. I'm proud of him. He is the type of person a Young Me would have hoped to be. This growth is something I could never have imagined this time last year. That's why if I had set myself a 2013 goal such as: 'Like Me More', it never would have happened as how do you make something like that happen? I can only speak from my own experience but I know how I made it happen... By exploring the things I didn't know.