Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Run Streak - Days 21 to 30

Yesterday was Day 30, marking the three quarter way mark... 75% done! Here's how they went down:

Day 21: The Day After The Wedding - Sunday 15th June
Run around the grounds of Ashford Castle and Cong before heading back to Lisloughrey Lodge

Day 22: The Renville Route - Monday 16th June
My regular route to the graveyard in Renville and back home

Day 23: The Usual - Tuesday 17th June
Yep, another Renville and back run. I must have a path worn at this stage... My body can run it on autopilot

Day 24: The Ring Roads - Wednesday 18th June
Happy Birthday Mam! As I knew I was heading to see my mam after work, I got my run in at 7am

Day 25: The Loop around Middle Third - Thursday 19th June
From Renville Park around Middle Third before Bootcamp with the gang from Maree AC

Day 26: The Renville Route - Friday 20th June
A 7am run to Renville and back before a busy day at work followed by dinner in my friends

Day 27: The Maldron Roundabout - Saturday 21st June
What better way to ring in the longest day of the year other than a 7am 5K before heading off on a 96K cycle

Day 28: The Galway Simon 10K - Sunday 22nd June
The Galway Simon 10K or 10M run along the Prom in Salthill. It was hot, my legs were heavy and I fought so hard just to finish this - my slowest 10K this year!

Day 29: The Leg Burner - Monday 23rd June
With heavy legs still recovering from the weekend, I ran the usual Renville route

Day 30: The Post Dinner Run - Tuesday 24th June
Running at 10pm after a huge pasta dinner is never a good idea. My slowest 5K of the streak!

I am goosed. This Run Streak has taken more out of me than I thought it would. I've hit "the wall" and need a good fong to sort me out. Hopefully tonight's 5K in Renville Park might kick start the tiredness that has built up inside me. I'm looking forward to the last quarter of the run streak. My last one was 31 days, so after today... I'll be on new ground which makes me happy :)

Friday, 20 June 2014

My next cycling challenge awaits...

Is this year passing in a 'blink and you'll miss it' kinda way or am I just too darn busy? Either way, the Tour De Burren is happening tomorrow, June 21st... and I'm more excited and more scared than Connemara.

I had prepared for Connemara, maybe not by following the typical training plan but I had been out for a few long cycles beforehand. I'm going to put my hand up right now and make a confession... I haven't been on my bike since Connemara which was the 24th of May which was over 4 weeks ago! What sort of a dose am I? I had promised I'd focus on cycling for now yet here I am half way through a Run Streak and finding myself without any time to get in a cycle.

When I signed up, I picked the 160km route but following a massive change of confidence/heart/courage during the week, I have changed to the 96km route - the Heart of the Burren. The route is described as follows on the website: 

From Ballyvaughan, head along the Galway Road into Bellharbour. Continue along the N67, where you after approx 12km, you encounter our first climb, ‘The Ballaghdine’. After a further 2km at the Galway Border and turn right up ‘The Corker Hill’. This is a 1km testing climb, that will really get your heart pumping. 

The next 7km is a mixture of downhill and relatively flat cycling, until you commence the 6.5km climb to Carron village, with the first 3km the most testing. The following 17.5km to Newtown Castle will take you through the heart of the Burren passing Caherconnell Stone (38km) fort where you will have your first water stop the remarkable Poll na Bron Dolman, before a scenic descent, down Ballyalban Hill, past the Aillwee Cave, when you will rejoin the N67 at Newtown Castle Cross. 

From here you begin the ascent of the infamous Corkscrew Hill. The entire climb, with its numerous switch backs is just 5km. For the next 11.5km or so, you will have a nice steady and relaxing cycle to Lisdoonvarna, where there will be a welcome break (60km), with tea, sandwiches, salmon on brown bread and of course, cheesecake! 

The final 37km will bring you into Doolin and then along the Wild Atlantic Way, back to Ballyvaughan and the finish of this years event.

So tomorrow morning while ye are all sleeping in bed, I'll be nervously making my way to Ballyvaughan to take on what I think is going to be a proper challenge. See you in 96km!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

I'm half way through my Run Streak...

My blog may be quiet at the moment but that doesnt meant I haven't stopped running. I've just crossed the half way point in the Runner's World Run Streak. The challenge is to run at least 1 mile every day from Monday May 26th to Friday July 4th (40 Days), but I've set myself the goal of running at least 5KM (3 miles).

Day 1: The First Run - Monday 26th May
Nice quick run out around Renville Park and back home

Day 2: The Racecourse 5K - Tuesday 27th May
Broke my fastest 1K (3 minutes 45 seconds) on this hot Tuesday evening in the Galway Racecourse for the second last of this years 5K series.

Day 3: The Recovery Run - Wednesday 28th May
Ran out to Renville and back with Aisling

Day 4: The Repeat Run - Thursday 29th May
Ran the Renville loop again - I think I need a new route

Day 5: The Hungover Run - Friday 30th May
Running after a night on the drink can sometimes be dodge, my time splits show this - I started confident, crawled home.

Day 6: The Cregganna Loop - Saturday 31st May
7:30am run before 9am bootcamp, all on a Saturday morning... Hardcore!

Day 7: The Post Dinner 5K - Sunday 1st June
I ran at 11:20pm after a massive dinner for my aunts birthday. It was dark, it was a bank holiday weekend but I got it in just under the midnight deadline

Day 8: The Bank Holiday Run - Monday 2nd June
It was late in the evening when I got back to Galway and notched up another 6K out to Renville and back

Day 9: The Tuam 5K- Tuesday 3rd June
The last of the 2014 Galway 5K series. Was so disappointed with my time! Really hoped to come in under 21 minutes but completely miscalculated

Day 10: The Run before the Birthday Party - Wednesday 4th June
It was Kieran's birthday so I crammed in a quick 6K before heading to his for pizza and cocktails

Day 11: The Run around Middle Third - Thursday 5th June
I went for a run around Middle Third before hitting up Bootcamp with the Maree AC crew in Renville Park

Day 12: The Graveyard Run - Friday 6th June
Most runs, I can motivate myself around Renville Park, today was slow. I managed the wall of the graveyard and back home again

Day 13: The Tonabrucky Challenge - Saturday 7th June
It was hot, it was hilly, it was tough

Day 14: The School Run - Sunday 8th June
It was woody, it was half off road, it was fun

Day 15: The 11K Loop - Monday 9th June
Sometimes, all you need is you and the road to sort out whats going on in your head. Today was one of those days

Day 16: The Late Night 5K - Tuesday 10th June
Another June Birthday, another late night run (with a belly full of cake!)

Day 17: The Renville Loop (again!) - Wednesday 11th June
What can I say... I'm a creature of habit

Day 18: The 6am 5K - Thursday 12th June
I had evening plans so got my 5K in at 6am before hitting Bootcamp at 7am

Day 19: The Friday Run - Friday 13th June
Was busy getting ready for my sister in laws wedding so between getting my own hair cut and the dogs, I squeezed in an 11K

Day 20: The Morning of a Wedding Run - Saturday 14th June
Squished in a 5K an hour before we had to be at the church

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Tonabrucky Challenge 2014

The Tonabrucky Challange was a race I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I know Lisa who organises the race and I was meant to take part last year but I think the sun came out and we had a BBQ instead (Sorry Lisa), so this year, when registration opened, I made sure I was in first and registered! I'd heard rumours from past runners who said the last KM was quite horrific thanks to a mega hill on the route. 

Myself and Aisling headed over to Tonabrucky at 5pm yesterday evening and spent the entire car journey debating whether or not it was going to rain. By the time we'd left the outskirts of Galway behind us, we spent the rest of journey debating whether or not the route covered the hills we were driving. They were horrific! We parked at the Rahoon Hurling Club and made our way inside to registration where we picked up our race bibs and t-shirts. We had 40 minutes to kill and it was lashing rain so we sat in the car for the storm to pass.

Race Glamour!

The rain stopped with about 15 minutes to spare which gave us enough time to get out and get our warm up complete before the race. The grounds were buzzing with loads of people dressed in the Tonabrucky Orange T-shirt ready for the start whistle at 6pm. With the dark clouds looming overhead, I was still unsure as to whether I should run with my rain jacket on or not, but as it turned out, I needn't have feared.

Dark Skies...

The race started shortly after 6pm and we took off out of the Hurling Grounds and left. I clocked a 4:12 for my first KM but almost immediately felt I wouldn't be able to keep it up. The sun had come out and bleeding hell it was warm! We turned onto the Rahoon Road at 2KM which despite being described as a someone at the start line as a "flat course apart from THAT hill at the end", was far from flat. Sometimes I think the straighter the road the harder it is as when you can see that far in the distance, it's harder to fool yourself into thinking 'The next KM sign could be just around the corner'.

Water at 3KM was such a welcome sight! Running with a plastic cup filled with water however is not such a pretty sight. I was like a wet t-shirt contestant by the time I had passed the water stop but thankfully everyone else was in the same boat so I didn't feel too bad. We turned off the main Rahoon Road at 4KM and continued slowly uphill until we turned left back onto the road towards the finish line.

As I passed the 5KM sign I knew all that was left between myself and the finish line was... THAT HILL! It was pretty horrific - the two photographers and crowd applauding didn't help as much as I wanted them to. I kept my head down and plowed on upward. I was so excited to reach the crest of the hill as I knew it was downhill from there. It was at this exact point I realised... I think I dislike downhill! You'd think 'Ah its only downhill its grand' but it is actually harder to not crease yourself running downhill at speed.

Photo from LR PR on Facebook

Once I could see the roof of the Hurling Club, I dug deep. My eyes were stinging from the sweat, it was so close and humid out there it certainly made for a tough run. As I approached the finish line I could hear Lisa on the megaphone 'Here come JQ!' which I reckon brought the only smile all race to my face! I finished 34th (out of 235) with a time of 27:50.

Lisa on the megaphone providing the motivation
(Pic from Tonabrucky FB page)

I now know why they call it the Tonabrucky Challenge but I'm glad I took part and kicked that hill right in the face! I hung around and clapped the other runners in. Aisling and Maureen followed shortly afterwards and while we gave out chatted about the route, we were also delighted to have completed a tough course on a hot Saturday evening. I loved it and look forward to running it again next year :)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Race 6 - Tuam [Galway 5K Series]

Where the hell has the last six weeks gone? I think between Tour de Connemara, being a marshal, work and other things going on *cough-Wedding-Prep-cough* I kinda wasn't properly ready to say goodbye to this years 5K Series. Being part of Maree AC this year has certainly played a huge part as I felt part of something bigger than just me and my friends running. Meeting Sharon and the others wearing the Black & Green Maree bibs week after week has been really super but of course, the 5K Series would be nothing without the friends you lace up alongside each week.

Ger, Aisling, Gordon, Brad, Michelle and Myself

We arrived in Tuam with plenty of time to spare as I always get pre-race 'What if there is traffic and we get delayed and then we can't find proper parking' panics when I am running away from home. We met up with Michelle (who had brought her family along for support) and Gordon (who was putting on a BBQ afterwards). We popped into the Ard Ri hotel to use the facilities and realised they had the t-shirts available for collection already. (When you run 4 of the 6 races, you get the T-Shirt), so once we had T-shirts, we went back outside and warmed up on our way to the start line.

This years route was the same as last years and I had a plan. My times over the past six weeks have been in and around the 21:30 mark (Athenry - 21:37, Loughrea - 21:31, Claregalway - 21:46, Galway - 21:29). I really really wanted to push myself and break 21 minutes. I know it was a bit of a jump but something in the back of my mind told me it was possible. I worked out the maths and as long as each kilometre came in under 4:12, I'd do it. Last week in the Racecourse, I ran the first 2km in 3:45 and it killed me for the rest of the race - my plan this week was to stick as close to 4:12/km as possible.

Myself and Aisling at the Start

The race started bang on 8pm and we were off. I clocked my first km at 4:17 so thought to myself 'OK, not too bad, pick up the pace a little'. The 2km clocked in a 4:07 so I was back on track and happy out. At some point here something went terribly wrong with my calculations. I don't know if it was the fact I was so focused on keeping on top of my times but the next two kilometres went by without a problem, so much so that when I passed the 4KM sign, I couldn't believe how great I was feeling and knew I only had to run this one in less than 4:30 to break under 21 minutes.

With this in mind, and the fact the last KM was downhill, I sped up as I knew I had it in me. As I approached the finish line, I could only see the seconds on the clock as someone was standing in front of the minute counter. I couldn't believe my eyes as it counted up... 31, 32, 33. I was about to cross the line in about 20:40... OMG! I felt amazing. It was at this precise moment the person standing in front of the clock moved and the minute counter read: 21!

FUCK! I crossed the finish line on deflated! How the hell did I get that so wrong? I was convinced I was about to smash my PB yet I crossed the line on my 2nd slowest 5K this year. Looking back at the times logged by the Nike App, KM 3 and KM 4 came in at 4:37 and 4:30. My guess, I was adding up the average pace times as opposed to the actual KM times. To say I'm gutted would be an understatement. It's an awful feeling to finish a race and be disappointed.

Can you see the disappointment on my face?

My official chip time was 21:39 making it my 2nd slowest 5K after Claregalway - the one I ran without a phone so had without pacing feedback. I'm so gutted but live and learn! I'm almost tempted to write the time splits on my hand for the next race just to remove the necessity to add up in my head while I run. (Yes I do realise admitting to not being able to add 5 times together is rather stupid but I just can't explain what happened).

After we all finished the race, we headed back to Yvonne and Gordon's where we had a BBQ in the rain :) After a lovely shower and a few BBQ'd burgers, I was back to feeling normal again. I've said it before but each race teaches me something. I'm still trying to work out if the lesson being taught this week was one about pacing, over-realistic goals/expectations or disappointment. Either way, I'm gutted to finish this year on that note considering how super the 5K Series was!

Roll on next year eh!? :)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Race 5 - Galway Racecourse [Galway 5K Series]

Last Tuesday was one of those evening where you weren't too sure if you were going to need an umbrella or sun cream. It had been a beautiful day (while I sat in work) but was humid, sticky and overcast come 7pm. I met the gang in the car park just before 7:30pm and we made our way up behind the stands at the racecourse where to the start line.

Myself and Aisling ready to kick ass!

I was feeling reasonably confident that I was going to push myself to try come in under 21 minutes. For some reason, I have this 21 minute line I really really want to cross this series. My times so far have ranged from 21:31 to 22:00 and I thought with the relative flatness of the racecourse, I could push myself that extra little bit and knock another few seconds of my best time. However I hadnt factored in how much of a sweat-box the evening was going to be.

The race started bang on 8pm and we took off behind the stands and entered the racecourse at the main horse entrance before doing a lap. I felt great and despite the narrow enough footpath and people dodging to start, I was surprised when I clocked my first kilometre in 3 minutes 47. I kept on going and what I felt was manageable and notched up my 2nd kilometre in under 3 mins 50 (making is 7:35 for the first 2km). It was at this point I should have learned my lesson - I was going way too fast.

As we nearly completed the first lap, we had to take a little incline on the track which just managed to wipe me and I never recovered. The heat was insane, I definitely pushed myself too hard at the beginning of the race and I couldn't maintain that speed. We looped back behind the stands before coming back out on the racecourse for Lap 2.

Sharon snapped me about to start Lap 2

I was a full 39s slower for my 3rd kilometre which is a speed decrease of 18%. Ouch. I ran the final two looking longingly at the finish line which I knew was in front of the main stand. The path around the course is quite narrow so I found as I slowed down, I was not only being overtaken constantly but people running in 2s and 3s were nearly forcing you out of their way. Two guys overtook me then maintained speed, blocking me from speeding up.

The last 200m from the top of the racecourse to the finish line was the worst. Normally I finish with a little something in the tank to get me over the line but there was nothing there. My arms were pins & needly, my mouth was as dry as Mother Teresa's sandal. I limped pathetically over the finish line at 21:37, giving me an official chip time of: 21:29 - my fastest 5K by 2s.

 Pace Map from Tuesday - look how well I started!

Across the line I found a lot of people had found it a tough course. Maybe I had underestimated it, maybe I had underestimated myself. Despite knocking 2s off my best time, I certainly didn't feel victorious. Getting pins & needles in my arms had thrown me, the heat had thrown me, doing laps had thrown me. Also, my run app was off a little and clocked each kilometre before I hit its marker, so by the time I got to the end, I was a full 150m out (the app has clocked the run as 5.15km).

Me coming up to the finish line (beside yer man in Yellow)

I was slightly relieved to hear I wasn't alone with my difficulties faced on the route as most other people I had been talking too found it killer. We are blaming the humidity. And the two hills on the course. So that was that, 2nd last run of the 5K series and I PB'd. My plan for Tuam is not to get carried away with myself and take off at 3:47/km. All I need is to maintain a 4:10km pace over 5K and I'll be in under 21. I've one chance left to get it! Here's hoping! 

Post Race refreshments