Sunday, 31 August 2014

Happy 2nd Weight Watch-a-versary!

It's the end of August which means only one thing... Happy 2nd Weight Watch-a-versary to me! It's been quite a different year than the previous one (Link here) in that I lost 99lbs in my first year of Weight Watchers. I went from 19st 2lbs to 12st 1lbs.

The first year of Weight Watchers

Now look at my 2nd year graph (The red line is my Target/Goal weight of 12st - 168lbs).

Ya. Not great is it?! As of today, I am 22.5lbs off Goal Weight - thats a stone and a half (and a bit!). Now I'm not making excuses or anything, but over the 2nd year... here is what this graph doesn't show:

I ran two marathons
I clocked my fastest 5K, 10K and Half Marathon times
I started cycling
I cycled the Ring of Kerry (180km)
I quit smoking
I got married

Now, the first five of these clearly put me in a better place in terms of my overall health and fitness irrespective of weight while the last one (getting married) explains that giant bump last month when I took an unofficial 5 week break from weight watchers. 

My point, however, is two-fold - on one hand:

While on the other:

I believe 100% that weight and fitness are not destinations, they have no finish line. I've surprised myself over and over with my ability to focus solely on a goal only to find when I cross the finish line there, I have set myself another finish line to chase. This blog after all is called '19st to 10K' as it was originally meant to document my journey to running my first 10K.  What happened when I hit the 10K? It became a faster 10K, then a half, then another half, then the full marathon.

While it's true... it is not the mountain we conquer, I've also learned that the view and personal achievement from climbing whatever self-imposed mountain I have place in front of me has been far more rewarding than anything I could have imagined. Weight Watchers has worked for me as it's given me a framework to keep myself accountable to the one person that it matters to, me. Yesterday, I came across this quote from Katie Piper which really hit everything home to me:

So now, two years on I feel my outlook on the future is even more positive than last year. I now know that it is hard but I also know that it's not all about the number on the scale. I know that I will always have a relationship my weight, food and fitness be constant. These are not going to go away once I hit goal weight if run a sub 3 hour marathon. All I can do is be me, stay happy, stay healthy and keep looking to the next mountain for me to climb.

Two years later (March 2012 v July 2014)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Re-adjusting the goalposts...

Its been a while since I updated the Running Excel sheet I keep on myself, and in doing so today I noticed the list of goal times I wanted to achieve this year tucked in the corner of the spreadsheet (set back in January). I have highlighted my personal bests for each distance below, each of which fall [significantly] short of the times I had set as goal.

Goal PB
5K 00:19:00 00:21:29
10K 00:40:00 00:43:52
Half 01:30:00 01:40:32

As you can see, I'm a nice bit away from each of my goals for each distance. The reason I set goals is to help me figure out what I want and what is achievable. For example, I can now see that to achieve a 19 minute 5K requires a pace of 3:48/km, at the moment my fastest 5K has been at a 4:18/km however I did clock 2 x 3:45/kms on that run (according to my Nike+ App).

As it stands, my runs for 2014 look as follow (with the PBs highlighted in green):

Tuam 8K819/01/201400:35:55
Maree 8K809/02/201400:36:59
Gort 8K816/02/201400:37:35
Kinvara Rock & Road Half Marathon21.101/03/201401:41:48
Pakie Ryan 10K1015/03/201400:44:27
Eamon Moloney 10K1030/03/201400:43:52
Athenry - Galway 5K Series529/04/201400:21:37
Great Limerick Run21.104/05/201401:40:32
Loughrea - Galway 5K Series506/05/201400:21:31
Claregalway - Galway 5K Series520/05/201400:21:46
Galway City - Galway 5K Series527/05/201400:21:29
Tuam - Galway 5K Series503/06/201400:21:39
Tonabrucky Challenge 607/06/201400:27:50
The School Run508/06/201400:22:28
Galway Simon 10K1022/06/201400:47:09
Renville Park 5K525/06/201400:23:00
Rock & Roll Half Marathon21.104/08/201401:50:01

Its hard to evaluate where I should set my goals for the remainder of the year as June & July have been slow so its hard to know where I should set my bar. That being said, having a goal has always helped motivate me and help keep me focused. I read somewhere before that not having a goal is like running up and down a field but never scoring.

For that reason, I am adjusting my goal times slightly for the remainder of the year as a goal also has to be realistic and achievable. The "easy" goal would be one you know with fair confidence you will achieve without significant effort, so I could set the goal of just beating each of the PBs I set earlier this year however that doesn't scare me enough to keep me motivated. I like a challenge and for that reason I have set my adjusted goals to:

Adj GoalPB

Having these goals will also keep me focused as the evenings get shorter and the weather gets worse. They keep me running. I also plan on running a timed half marathon each month for the rest of the year to keep my distance running up. If anyone knows any good Half in October, November or December, let me know as I am looking to sign up :)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Destination Unknown

The journey for body mass reduction is now frequently travelled by many in today’s society in the search of a leaner person within. After days, months, years of endless toxic intake something triggers within and the body revolts. You need to lose weight, the seed is planted.
Before you know it, you are about to board the bus with the other thousands on the journey to weight loss, you’re on and off you go. Brilliant, you’re on your way. You even know most of the people on here too, great! 
Now you have settled into your seat, a few thoughts swish round your active mind. Where are you going? How long are you gone for? Did you need to bring anything along? Does anybody know where you’re going? Do I really want to be going here? Why am I going here again? 
Before you know it you are off at the next stop and heading home before you have reached your destination. I’ll try and go to that place some other time.Some other time, on a different route. Maybe.Some other time.
We all get frustrated when things do not work out for us as we intend. Weight loss is no different. Many people set themselves up for failure before they begin any task due to lack of forward planning and organisation. 
Weight loss is no different.
Decide where & why you are going.
Plan the journey ahead.
Organise necessary requirements for trip.
Weight loss is found on these organised trips.
Get to where you are going next time, not lost.

I found the above on another blog, and while these are not my words/thoughts it has definitely made me think... This time last year I was one measly pound off goal (12st) when I decided to give up the cigs. And yes it worked to some degree as my weight fluctuated up and down around 7lbs over the following few months. In April of this year I hit 13st which was a full stone away from goal weight. Without getting into it now, its been something that has constantly been on my mind since. Its easy not to consider the NSVs (Non Scale Victories) like completing four half marathons and two marathons, like physically getting stronger.

In a conversation I had with my aunt just this week I had been talking about how I've been within touching distance of my goal weight twice in the past year however each time it just seemed to slipped away. She asked me "What would be different right now if that week last year I had been down the extra lb and had hit goal?"

Mind. Blown.

Do I think the subsequent weeks would have been easier? No. Do I think maintaining would have been easier? No. Would it matter if my weigh card was gold but my weight wasnt? No. I think the reason the above quote struck me so much is how close to the bone it is. 

Where am I going?
What is the destination? 
How long am I going for?
Why am I going here?

While I'm still working on the answers to these questions, I just wanted to share the quote with you as it might awaken something in someone else.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Lets get physical...

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have not suffered from any of the common ailments runners normally talk of. Of course I ache at times, the worst ever being the muscle spasms once I crossed the finish line of the Connemarathon, but I'm talking about more longer term injuries like Tendinitis or IT Band Syndrome. I love running and if I'm honest, no other sport has hooked me as deep as running. Cycling was fun but it never challenged me, I think that is because I was only cycling recreationally (i.e. not for time). I enjoyed cycling but as of last weekend, I moved the bike from the hallway into the garden shed, which is a bit of a kiss of doom for it really.

Anyway, I remember when I started running last year, I was having a chat with a friends dad who ran in the past but had to stop due to injury. His advice to me was to start working on core strength now rather than later. His point was that the high impact nature of running (especially on road) is tough on the joints. I remember him saying so clearly that I need to give my joints a break, strengthen muscles and build up a strong body. (I'll skip the science bit, you can google that yourself).

Despite having completed two half marathons at this point, I couldn't do a single push-up. I knew my body wasn't strong - my legs were, but I wasn't really physically strong. It was at this time last year I saw a poster for Fitness Bootcamps running out of French Vanoli in Oranmore. Myself and Aisling said we would sign up for the month just to see what was on offer and a year later we are still going twice a week. Tom and the gang there are incredible and I can honestly say over the past year we haven't done the same bootcamp twice!

French Vanoli - Visit their Website Here

At 7am every Tuesday & Thursday morning, you could find us doing anything from kettle bells to skipping ropes, burpees to wall balls, planks to box jumps. Over time I've found myself getting stronger (hey, Rome wasn't built in a day) and I progressed from doing push-ups on my knees to proper adult push-ups. My career as a hand model is out the window as they are constantly wrecked following knee-ups on a high bar or a heavy set of kettle bells. 

My point is this: There are different kinds of physical - and the different kinds of physical do different things to your body. This became all too apparent last Tuesday when I returned to Bootcamp after a month off (Thanks Wedding). I pushed through the class without thinking too much of it but as the hours passed after the class, I started to get sorer and stiffer. By Wednesday I was walking around like someone who had whiplash. I went for a run just to see if that would loosen anything out. I recovered just in time for Thursday's bootcamp!

As much as I love running, I actually think I love Bootcamp. It's a dedicated hour workout session where the control of what you do is taken from your hands. I know from running, I will usually take routes with fewer hills, I can cut a run short if it starts to rain, I control the speed. With Bootcamp, you don't know what you'll be doing before you go in. You don't know if you'll be skipping for a minute or ten minutes. You don't know if you'll be doing dead-lifts or sprints. One of my favourite parts is working in groups/pairs which we do quite often - We could be given a list for example of: 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 wall balls, 100 twists, 100 burpees which you have to complete in pairs with only one partner working at a time.

I'm not really making this sound easy but do you know what... it's working. Having someone push me has helped make me stronger. Instead of constantly opting for the same kettlebell weight, I've moved up along the weights. I suppose I haven't put much stock into the value I have been getting from my boot camps but really I can't sum it up any better than Kelly Clarkson: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! And what makes you stronger makes you better. I absolutely believe the reason I have been running injury free comes down to my cross training twice a week.

So what can I do with all this cross training? Well I won't win an Strongest Man competition or Longest Planker or anything but it's never been about that for me. I go to Bootcamp for no reason other than to keep fit, keep physical and cross train. A huge plus for me has been the craic you'd have with the other people there. We complain when the going gets tough, we work (well) together when paired up and we have the banter before & afterwards. The trainers there (especially Tom) are also mega, they know how to push you just that little bit extra.

Anyway, back to the point of this post, getting physical. I've just gone and signed up for Tough Mudder in Dublin in just over 7 weeks time. The event (first time in Ireland) is not a race but a challenge. It describes itself as "a 10/12 mile obstacle course designed to test all-around strength, stamina, teamwork and mental grit" and I am psyched for it! Aisling is also doing it, in fact, she is the reason I've signed up - We are both ready to kick some ass!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Happy Quit-a-versary to me!

I remember it like it was yesterday... It had just gone 7am on a wet August morning in Oranmore, County Galway. It was a Wednesday. I wasn't long out of bed and I was about to head out for my morning walk with the dog. There was something different about this morning though... there was a definite certainty hanging in the air.

That precise moment was the last time I smoked... Hello my name is John and it has been exactly one year since my last cigarette!

The last cigarette...

I'm not going to do that condescending thing where I now preach at how much healthier I am now, or how my odds of getting lung cancer are significantly lower than yours. I'm not going to tell you to give up, nor am I going to judge you for not wanting to. Smokers aren't stupid people. Smokers know what smoking does to their bodies without needing graphic pictures or warnings on packs. Smokers know they are twenty times more likely to get lung cancer than a non smoker. 

I'm going to hit you with the cold hard truth of what changed from the very moment I gave up smoking. My bank account. I actually saved €3,600!

Yep, I actually put aside the money I was spending on cigarettes (well... a Direct Debit put the money aside on my behalf), but actually seeing the money I wasn't spending accumulate really helped put things into perspective for me. I saved that money with the intention of treating myself to something I wouldn't normally spend money on like a pamper day at a 5* or a shopping spree however I found myself getting really protective of that money. I didn't want to waste it, I wanted to spend it on something meaningful... YET for the previous 10 years I was lighting that money up and throwing it away without giving it as much as a second thought.

Now it hasn't been plain sailing but as the phrase goes: Smooth sea don't make a skillful sailor. There are times when I do 'miss' them but they are so infrequent at this stage, they pass as quickly as they appear. I'm using the word 'miss' here as I know I don't really miss them like a loyal dog misses his master. I don't miss the smell, the taste, the cost, the habit. I don't miss standing out in the rain/wind. I don't miss being a slave to a disgusting, destructive habit which is not providing a single mg of goodness.
Happy Quit-a-versary to me!

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Rock & Roll Half Marathon - The 2014 Edition

This was the second year the Rock & Roll Half Marathon hit Dublin, and my second time running it. For reasons which should be apparent from my last few posts, my running has been quite slack of the past month, so pretty much my entire preparation for this half marathon was a single 5K run mid-July. Throw in a wedding, food, drinks, honeymoon, macaroons, chocolatiers, cocktails and hotels and mix it all together and you pretty much end up with how I found myself at the start line on Monday August 5th... In a haze!

The Liffey at 8am on a Monday Morning

This was my 6th Half Marathon race, with my last in Limerick back in May giving me my fastest Half time of 1:40:32 and while I knew that was completely unattainable this time around, I was hopeful to just come in under the two hour mark. I hadn't run 21km in three months, in fact my furthest was 11km since my previous half marathon! 

Running alongside me was Aisling and Gordon who were both doing their first Half Marathons so it was great to feel the excitement and nerves from them as all three of us headed for the start line on the Quays between the Convention Centre and The o2. I had been due to start the race in Corral #1 as I had set myself the extremely ambitious finish time of 1:30 when I signed up last November for the race. Instead of piling in to Corral 1 with all the lean prepared runners, I shimmied into Corral 4 and started the race with Aisling just after 8:30am.

1... 3... oh... 4

This years route was completely different to last year and I hadn't examined the route too well so I found it quite a surprise as it brought me places I had never been in Dublin before. We started off along the quays and hit the 5K mark just before Heuston Station. I was quite surprised with how I was holding up especially considering I was hitting each KM just under the 5 minute mark. 

The Start Line...

The route brought us up through the Irish Museum of Modern Art (which I never even knew existed), and out around by Kilmainham Gaol before bringing us down Sarsfield Road. We hit 10K just before we turned into the Phoenix Park. I knew the finish line lay somewhere inside the park and I was just at the halfway point. I have to admit, at this point even I was impressing myself as the clock was at 49:48 as I crossed the 10K sign.

It was at this point I think my body was like 'OK what the feic' because even looking back at my times, it was at this point everything got slower. The next 7K passed in a blur. I kept my head down and just kept telling myself I could do this. Sometimes even I surprise myself with my 'Mind over matter' mantra but here I am again proving to myself that it works. I've said before the thing I love/hate about running is that not a single step is ever given to you. You and everyone else has to work, putting one foot in front of the other. There are no short-cuts, no fast-track techniques. 

For me, the single worst point of the entire run was around the 17K mark when we had to run alongside the finish line and finishers village. A woman running alongside me said 'Cmon, 4K more and we are there... we have the hard work behind us'. That is my second favourite thing about running. People genuinely help each other along. Just a little word of encouragement at a time when you are second-guessing yourself can really make a difference.

The run through the park showed me plenty, from the elderly man who had stopped and these old ladies were like 'Come on, show the young ones we can still do it' to the guy who had stopped to help another guy out who was clearly struggling in the heat. Nothing made me happier to pass the 21K sign as I knew the finish line was just around the corner. I crossed with an official chip time of 1:50:01 which blew my mind. I couldn't believe it - I feel half way between my best Half time and the time I was aiming for (2 hours).

I wasn't waiting at the finish barrier for too long when Alan, Gordon and Aisling crossed the line. Aisling & Gordon finished their first half marathons while it was my first run with Alan which is kind of brilliant. Imagine how different our round the world trip would have been in 2010 had I not been a lazy overweight git!


I clearly have a lot of work to do to get myself back in the running game. My legs ached afterwards and my body creaked for the rest of the day but dya know what - it held up and kept on going despite me throwing it in at the deep end. Ever run teaches me something and the 2014 Rock & Roll Half Marathon has shown me how important training is, my finish time suffered as a result. That being said, I'm giving myself a 'Get out of Jail' card on account of this being the first run I've completed with a silver band on my finger :)

New Bling!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Mr and Mr...

For the past week, something has been catching my eye. It has happened when the light shines in a certain way or when I reach for something I often catch a glimpse of it and it makes me smile. This is something that was never there before but I know will be there from this day forward - the ring my other half put on the finger.

On Friday 25th of July, I bound myself by law to my special person, and he bound himself to me. Following a civil ceremony in Oranmore, we had a Blessing in Limerick surrounded by family and a small group of friends where myself & Cathal exchanged our vows and rings in what was probably the scariest yet most certain experience I've ever had.

Last minute prep...

People say your special day will pass in a blur, that you'll be pulled from place to place, that you'll have a pain in your face from all the smiling for photos, that you'll emotionally be all over the shop... and they are right. The day moved both fast and slow. Certain parts of the day I will cherish and they will stay with me forever - but what I wasn't expecting and no one had ever warned me about was the overwhelming feeling of love we felt on the day. The amount of tweets, text messages, Facebook messages and phone calls were only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the waves of love in the room would have melted any iceberg within a 1000m radius of the venue. 

Mr & Mr (First Wedding Selfie)

I know a lot of people say they dream of their big day all their lives. For me, it has always been about the person. I remember, as embarrassing and all as it is, hoping there was a person out there that I could just sit on the couch with and discuss the finer things in life like Westlife's next single (bear in mind it was the late 90s). I never thought I would have that connection with anyone yet here I am now married to someone who is ten thousand times more than anything I'd ever imagined.

The First Dance... 

Collectively, we have been so blessed not only to have two wonderfully supportive families but also such an amazing group of people we are proud to call our friends. Life isn't easy and the cards are never dealt out fairly but I really do feel like we got dealt a Royal Flush!