Friday, 28 February 2014

Gorgeous Gort 8K

(Disclaimer: I know this post is sooo two weeks ago but hey... better late than never!)

Gorgeous and Gort aren't really two words I'd ever heard before in the same sentence. I suppose, my only experience with Gort was either being stuck in a bus or before it was bypassed, I remember the fear I had every time I came into the town as I'd be terrified I'd have to hill start on that hill just before the square. For all my slagging, I actually really like Gort. After all, it is the birth place of my dog-baby CJ!

CJ - Born in Gort, Mother & Father still reside there

I had signed up for the race as one of the guys at work is part of the South Galway Athletics Club and I said I'd support them. OK no the real reason I signed up was for the t-shirt but don't tell them that :) But as one of the few races I've ever gone to on my own, it does make for a less exciting experience when you have no one to share it with.

I was also hella-apprehensive heading down as I had run 30K on the evening before as part of my Marathon Training plan - this was not ideal in the slightest but I'm afraid getting in my Long Run was more important than resting properly before the Gort 8K. Anyway, I keep digressing. I arrived in Gort about 45 minutes before the race started and collected my T-Shirt and Race Bib before heading outside to warm up. I met a few other guys from work who were there also so we chatted for a bit and then made our way to the start line (on the main street in Gort).

On Yer Marks...

An announcement had been made during the week that the course had been changed due to some flooding on some local roads which was a bit of a shame. Apparently the route is lovely heading around by Lough Cultra castle. Instead we got an uneventful 5K loop which took a detour up some hilly side roads bringing us back around to the Community Center where we had started.

It wasn't my best run but I am 100% blaming the weight in my legs. I could feel how tired they were the whole way around after having clocked up a run from Oranmore to Salthill and back 15 hours previous so I suppose I can't blame them (my legs) really! I was papped by the course photographer coming up to the final stretch. I really need to work on my 'This actually isnt as effortless as I make it look" look. (Thats a joke BTW)

7K down... 1 to go!

I crossed the finish line with an official chip time of 37:35s making it my second slowest 8K to date. Oops. Moral of the Story: I could have taken the day off as a reward after my long run the night before but instead I headed to Gort and ran. I didn't push myself, I knew that. Better safe than sorry and I still to date haven't run a race I've regretted.

Gort didn't disappoint! I had a great race, nice course, plenty of spectators & marshals. The best part was the Rocky Road buns waiting in the Community Center afterwards. With a takeaway coffee in one hand and a cookie in the other, I headed back to Galway happy out.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Because I'm happy... *claps along*

It's been a week since my last blog post so I said I'd wrap everything that happened up in one big update. Last Saturday morning I was in town for a Weight Watchers photo shoot. Yep, photo shoot number 2 which I will update ye on soon enough... all I can say is, keep an eye out for the March issue of Galway Now *wink*

As I was leaving after the photo shoot, I was walking up Abbeygate St and I could see a load of people dancing on the street. I walked past what turned out to be the 'Galway is also Happy' video which appeared online during the week. I'm nearly raging I didn't have the balls to do a bit for it as they were looking for random members of the public to dance.

It's moments like this that once they have passed you wish you had done something a bit different. Just even taken a small step outside your comfort zone, who knows whats out there. I had set my New Years Resolution (Blog Post Here) increasing my personal knowledge of things I don't know. Here was a prime example of something I let slip past me that I really shouldn't have. Anyway... This blog post is called 'Because I'm Happy' so I'm going to shift the mood to talk about other fun things instead :)

Remember my Christmas challenge? The one where I put a €200 wager on losing weight over Christmas. As you may remember, I won (I was down 0.5lbs after Christmas). My reward was to treat myself to a nice stay-cation. I was planning on heading to a 5* in Donegal but instead ended up in The Cliff House in Ardmore. I took Tuesday and Wednesday off work and myself and my better half headed south to Waterford. It. Was. Heaven.

Michelin Star Dining

Healthy Breakfast :)

I've also been running away like a mad thing. The Connemarathon is 6 weeks ago (where the hell does the time go) and yesterday saw the longest run as part of my 12 week training plan. At 32.2km (20 miles), I was looking forward to reaching this milestone as like most races I run, I always figure from the half way point, you are homeward bound. I knew once I had this run in the bag, I'm on the 'home stretch' so to say.

I planned out my route to include a lot of new stretch to mix it up a bit and off I headed at 10am. It rained, the sun shone, there was hail stone, some roads were flooded and it was quite windy. It was like all 4 seasons wrapped into one run. As I ran in the old Dublin road towards Oranmore I had this moment where I was struggling against the wind, I had 5km to go and my legs were tired. As I pushed through, I realised that my mind rarely tells me I can't do something, it encourages me. I am internally coaching myself to push through whatever fatigue I am experiencing. My mind and body finally seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. This also makes me happy.

20 miles DONE! (excuse the mental hair)

Samantha Mumba (remember her?) was also playing a gig in Galway this week so obviously I was there! Myself, Aisling, Emer & Rob (and later Brad) crammed the dance floor to some of Sam's only biggest hits like 'Always Come Back to Your Love' and 'Gotta Tell You'. For what started out as a gig with poor attendance actually turned out to be quite epic by the end. I even got to meet her afterwards which certainly made my night. 

Samantha Mumba actually asked for her photo taken with me!

To cut a long story short, the update with me is: I'm happy. I saw this pic on Facebook during the week and it's really stuck with me... It is so true. Every single day we make the choice to be happy or not. Once I became aware that I was responsible for making that choice, it's really helped me prioritise and focus on the things that really do matter. I'd recommend everyone try it.

Friday, 14 February 2014

6 Months Later...

On Wednesday, August 14th 2013... I smoked my last cigarette. I blogged about my reasons why I was quitting the day before and I knew once I hit the end of the pack I currently had in my pocket, that was it. I was giving up. That was 6 months ago...

My last ever cigarette...

Fast forward six months and I can hand on my heart say that it has been the best thing I have ever done. I continue to surprise myself with how determined I can be when I really want to be. I have been asked how I gave up, what I've used and how hard I've found it. If you are expecting to read a motivational "You can do it, it's so easy" type post, you are mistaken.

I went cold turkey. It was tough for the first 3 days.
I didn't sleep properly for about 2 weeks.
I ate... A lot. But then I ran... A lot.

Somewhere in the first few weeks I forgot old habits and created new routines. I found work harder than home despite the fact my other half smokes (and still does). That was when I realised that I am a creature of habit. I would get up and go for a cigarette at regular times like 10am, 11:30am, 3:00pm. Like a zombie, once the clock struck a certain time, I would up and go for a cigarette. By changing the routine I created a new habit which I stuck to initially but it eventually fell out in the wash. That routine was simply to still get up from my desk and take 3 minutes in the canteen with an apple or a glass of water, then back to my desk. I think it was more the 3-minute break I was addicted to rather than the actually cigarette.

Now don't get me wrong, I haven't been craving-free but I found these became less and less frequent quite quickly. I can see how easily they could be turned to as a crutch in a time of stress (or drunkenness). It's kind of like my old relationship with food. Just because it is available/within reach, doesn't mean you should have it/deserve to have it. Temptations & cravings will pass, I just believed I was strong enough to sit this craving out and everything would be ok afterwards. It worked.

In the past six months: 

My running has improved
My breathing is less laboured
I smell better
I can smell everything else so much better
I waste less time sitting around smoking
I feel emotionally stronger (hey, I've quit smoking)
I'm healthier
I'm happier

Apart from all of the health benefits, the thing that has been most rewarding is watching my credit union account. When I quit, I set up a Direct Debit for €300 a month. I told myself that if I went back smoking, I wasn't allowed to cancel the Direct Debit as punishment. 

I now have €1800 sitting in my credit union account. 

Imagine how raging I'd be if I went to withdraw it and they were like "Oh sorry it got burned as is gone". That's exactly what I was doing with my money for the past ten years. Saving the money I'm not spending on cigarettes is the easy part. Repairing the damage I've done to my body on the other hand will be much less forgiving.

I'm sorry body, but I promise you this... I'm working on undoing the damage. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Maree 8K

Last Sunday was the Maree 8K, a race I had been looking forward to for some time. It's my home ground and I know the roads around Maree like the back of my hand. Surprisingly, I had never run the 8K route in daylight before, so running it on Friday before the race seemed like a good idea at the time but actually seeing how hilly the route is in the cold hard light of day is a lot scarier than heading uphill with just a running light on your head.

This race was also special as it was my friend Aisling's first ever race. Aisling trumps me in terms of getting from 0 to 8K in a matter of weeks and I couldn't be prouder of her. Like a woman on a mission, I never doubted her ability but it was great to see those virgin-runner-butterflies in someone else. Myself, Aisling, Brad and Sinead gathered at Maree Community Centre before the race to pick up our bibs, have a chin-wag and warm up before the race.

Myself, Brad, Sinead & Aisling

The sky changed from what had been a bright blue Spring day to what looked like the apocalypse just before the race kicked off at 1pm. While the rain held back, jaysus the wind didn't! The first 3KM out towards Tawin Island were facing the wind head on which was... refreshing to say the least. It definitely cleared my head :) I knew this route had a turn around point which added a nice touch between 3-5km to actually see people both way ahead of you and behind you at the same time.

Waiting for the gun
What I mean by that is... I have never seen anyone lead/win a race (usually because I'm tucked up safely in the midst of the crowd), so seeing the race leader charge past me was kind of energising and motivating. Likewise, seeing familiar faces in the crowd like completely failing to deliver a High 5 as I passed Phil added a nice touch of something different to this race. I also kept my mind and eyes busy keeping a look out for Sinead, Brad and Aisling too.

The run continued past the Water Station at the 5K mark up yet another hill and around some tight roads barely wide enough for a single car. Having the wind at my back made the second half of the race seem easier than the first half. I had been running alongside the same woman for most of the race so a part of me did feel kinda bad when we turned the corner towards the finish line I turned it up a gear and left her behind.

I crossed the finish line just after 37 minutes (Chip Time: 36m 59s)... no new records today but still not a bad effort considering with wind and the hills. My guilt for speeding past that woman was further confounded across the finish line when she came up to me and said she just couldn't keep up with me. Sorry :( I hate it when you have your sights on someone and you just never catch up to them. A bit disheartening but at the same time it can be a fun game to play when out running.

Heading for the finish line 
(Pic courtesy of the Maree AC Facebook page)

I cheered as Aisling, Brad and Sinead came over the Finish Line. The sun had come out and the crowd were buzzing around Maree Centre. Once all across the line and suitably recovered rehydrated & recomposed, we headed in to the Community Centre for what was the best spread I've ever seen after a race. My favourite was the little guy experiencing emotional turmoil at the vast selection of goodies laid out in front of him :) Like a kid in a candy shop, I kinda felt the same.

All in all, a windy but great day, lovely route, nice crowd and great people to share the experience with - as always. On to the next race! Also, Aisling most certainly got bitten by the running bug during the run as she spent post race talking about when and where the next race we could sign up to would be. I'm looking forward to it already.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Marathon #2 - 8 Weeks To Go

It's been a while since I've given a marathon training update and following the update from the people behind Connemarathon that this years race has fully sold out, what better time to update the blog on how my training has been going.

You are either in or out

I'm one third of the way through my 12 week training plan and I have to admit, I'm finding it harder to follow this time around then last year (despite it being the exact same plan). I'm still highly invested in running and my desire to get to the finish line come April 6th is as strong as it was before, its just finding the motivation to complete each of the week-day runs is proving quite the challenge.

I have hit each of the weekly long runs but finding the time/energy/motivation to get out and clock up the mid-week kms has been tough. Its dark in the morning before work, its dark in the evening after work. Work has been up the walls busy. It has been windy. It has been raining. It is cold. My list of excuses could go on and on but do you know what... It's bull-dish really. I read somewhere that excuses are the adult version of 'The dog ate my homework' and it's true.

Focusing on the positives, I have been running at least 4 days a week (one long run, three 6-to-10k runs). I've been going to Bootcamp twice a week. I've been out walking the dog (which makes me feel better for missing a run as the dog "needed" a walk which would take the same amount of time a run would have. I've been running with my friend Aisling who last week, ran her first ever 5K without stopping. I've taken part in the Tuam 8K and have the Maree 8K coming up on Sunday.

Snapshot of my training plan

When I am good - I'm great! I had missed my long run at the weekend a few weeks ago thanks to my other half's 30th, so I set my alarm for 5.30am and got it in BEFORE work as I knew I wouldn't do it after work. While I felt amazing going in to work that morning, it was tough to keep the energy up at work throughout the day. When I did get home that evening, I crashed on the couch and fell asleep by 8pm. 

6am Run

So I'll keep on running, and while I'm not up to the KM coverage I should be hitting weekly, I am getting the long runs in. Last Sunday morning I lay in bed having that 9am 'Will I just get up and do it?' battle so many runners have. Getting as far as the door is honestly the hardest part as I know as soon as I am out there, I love it! 

Last Sunday's Run

Yesterday, following a filling at the dentists I headed out for my long run which was planned for 14 miles (22.5km) with half of my face numb. Drinking water was my biggest challenge but it kept a (lopsided) smile on my face drooling while I ran. There really is no better feeling than having your long run out of the way before the weekend get started, leaving me more time to do the finer things in life... like making/eating cupcakes!

Hard to believe this time 8 weeks I'll be staring the Connemarathon right in the face! Where does the time go?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Its my Blog-a-versary!

My blog, 19st to 10K has just turned ONE... I can't believe it. From what started as just my little online journal documenting the start of what I thought at the time was my journey to 10K has actually taken on a life of its own. It really has become the complete diary to my entire running life - something I fully plan on continuing.

In the past year this little blog has received over 55,000 hits and was a Finalist in the Irish Blog Awards. This week, my blog was even in the official Weight Watchers magazine (March 2014 issue):

One of Weight Watchers favourites you say :)

So not to go like yer man on Little Britain ("I can write the theme tune, sing the theme tune, compose the theme tune"), I'm well chuffed considering its only me here. I write all the posts and while I still don't feel I have a clear focus or direction with the blog, I like the freedom of being able to come on here and just dump my thoughts on here.

I have found blogging my way through runnning has helped me set goals, be accountable and has helped me track my progress. Hopefully some of the 100+ posts from the past year will show someone out there who may be struggling that anything is possible. Yes it takes time, yes its hard work but it is possible.

Three friends of mine (Hi Rob, Aisling and Maureen) have recently started running and I have to admit I am jealous of them. Jealous of what lies ahead of them, jealous that they will get to experience their first race, first finish line, first medal. That being said, I am also excited for them. Excited for the day we get to line up behind the same starting line.

And while running doesn't define me, I know I am who I am today because of it. So stick around, lets see what the next year has in store for me one blog post at a time.