Friday, 20 March 2015

A half marathon is easy!

For the past two years I have done the full marathon in Tralee so this year was a completely new for me as I decided to do the half marathon instead. I have the  Paris full marathon on April 12th so I didn't want to do two marathons in a month.  Never did I think when I started this blog that I would be going abroad to even run a marathon. In fact I only ever intended to do one marathon not actually take up running and join the Tralee Triathlon club. How life changes!
For me the half was much easier psychologically as it was only 13 miles versus 26 miles which at least in my mind was a way easier.  It kind of felt like I wasn't really doing anything because I wasn't doing the full. Sure what could go wrong with 13 miles.  However  part of me wishes I had braved the full as at least I have the excuse of being slow because it is 26 miles.
Apparently half marathons are about speed - and I don’t do speed. But nonetheless I managed a respectable time of 2.09.59 - not to be confused with the much slower 2.10!
It was very weird starting out and realising I only had to do 13 and not 26 miles as in previous years.
This was only my second ever half marathon distance race, so I don’t have much to compare it to but I know one thing: it was tough.
That hill after Barrow cross before you reach the Spa is just hell - it goes on forever, and up forever. And it really, really slows you down.  How am I supposed to get fast times with this hill in my way.
I also have decided I do not like The Kerries, that is another back breaking hill, and right at the end of the race - really not fair!
For me of course it was only mile 12 - for the full runners it was mile 24, so it must have been pure torture. That thought did keep me going all the way up to the top of The Kerries. Thankfully the last mile of the marathon was fast and I made good use of the downhill to cross the line in 2.09.59. I had paced myself to do 2.10 and I did it. My previous half was 2.15 so 5 minutes shaved off since last October is an improvement I am proud of. It's weird to think that over the past three years that I have come on so much. I am by no means a fast runner but I am improving and that's what it is all about for me. It is what keeps me coming back for more. So what will my next half be?!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Another notch on my belt!

After last year’s marathon, I swore I’d never put myself through that torture again. But there I was on March 16th, at the starting line with 26.2 miles ahead of me, ready to run another one - just for the fun of it. 
So now, I’ve added a second marathon medal to my collection. It’s hard to believe.
Is it easier second time around? Absolutely not.
Will I do it again? Maybe. 
I have to say I actually enjoyed this year’s marathon more than last year, even though I was far more nervous.
It’s really hard to explain just how it feels at the starting line waiting for the signal to go, but I think the overwhelming feeling is that you are part of something special, and that your day has finally come. 
I’ve read loads of marathon books in recent weeks to get myself psyched up, but the one thing we have here in Tralee that all those runners don’t is the Born to Run and Marcus Howlett. We’re all in it together, which means you are never running alone.
That’s actually the key to getting through the 26.2 miles. Completing a marathon is about positivity - if you let negative thoughts in, you won’t do it. But boy did I have a job battling those negative thoughts this time around! 
I felt like I couldn’t do it all again, but with members of Born to Run around me I kind of forgot this was a race - and thought of it instead as another training run. 
Passing the half-marathoners in the first mile is a huge buzz and I felt like a celebrity as I passed up Caherslee with everyone shouting my name. By the way - thanks a million to all those people who shouted out to me: you have no idea how much of a boost it gives. I felt like I knew half the town. 
Marathon runners really need supporters it’s what makes the event special - so fair play to everyone who came out.
The six miles to Ardfert flew by as everyone chatted together and next thing I knew, after more cheers and support, I was heading for Barrow. The half marathoners were flying past us all to way to Ardfert, which can be a bit disconcerting as they are going so fast and you feel like you are going so slow in comparison. I was actually glad to get on to ‘my’ route and head for Barrow. 
I ended up walking a bit of it as my knees didn’t feel great. I felt a pull on my right knee as I got into Ardfert, which gradually got worse and by Barrow and I thought for a while the whole run was going to be agony. 
Even at Barrow I thought I was never going to finish and had to keep telling myself I just had to get Fenit, but after about mile 12 or 13 I kind of settled in and when I hit Fenit the music gave me a huge buzz. 
I can’t remember the song that was playing but it really lifted me and I took off down the pier and back up again, flying. 
On the way out, I met the 5 hour pacer and when I realised I was ahead of him I was over the moon. I literally got a burst of energy.    
I definitely didn’t hit the wall as hard this year and I found the Kerries okay, although it was tough turning up Caherslee for the second time and the Fenit Railway line, aka the Skinny Mile, is the longest mile in history.
Actually from the top of Denny Street to the bottom is also much longer than you think. 
They say that a marathon doesn’t begin until mile 20 and that is so so true. I was in flying from until about mile 23. I felt great, but the last few miles the are toughest you will ever do in your life. 
You really have to dig deep to make spur yourself - and this is what separates us marathon runners from the rest. 

Everyone has their own goals doing a marathon, which is what makes it special. I wanted desperately to beat my 5.04 time from last year.
And - hooray! - I did it! I crossed the finish line in Denny Street in 4.54!
And this year, I managed to do it without tears -  I had a face of determination instead. 
I was so excited when I crossed the finish line in 4.54 you’d think I’d won the marathon. 
It may not be a fantastic time - but it was for me. I’d hoped to maybe do a bit better, but my knees gave up the ghost in mile 24. Going around the Mounthawk roundabout, I thought they were broken so I tried walking, which seized them up more. 
I literally was in agony until the finish line. I thought I’d never cross the mat in Denny Street. 
I have to say thanks to Joanne Allman who came back after doing the half marathon and ran up Caherslee and down the Skinny Mile making sure that I didn’t give up with the finishing line in sight.
So whether Sunday was your first or your second or third doesn’t matter. What matters is you made it and you have a Kerry’s Eye Tralee International Marathon medal to prove it. I think I may sleep with mine, it’s so special! 
I want to say a special thinks to all the Born to Run members. There are way too many to name, but without them I would not be a marathon runner at all. And to Marcus and Jim for making me sign up in the first place. I do have to say thanks to Mags O’Connor who ran most of the way with me on Sunday and helped me keep focused.
And now of course having completed my second marathon I now need a new challenge. A triathlon and Dublin City Marathon could be on the cards. Don’t stop me now!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's nearly time

I’ve run the marathon on a daily basis since the start of March in my dreams - now the real thing is only days away and I can hardly sleep. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m petrified. I’m happy. Mostly, I’m looking forward to getting started - and getting it finished.
It’s actually really hard to describe the sense of anticipation ahead of the big day but I can definitely say I’m more nervous the second time around. 
Last year, all I had to do was cross the line. I did that in spectacular fashion, breaking down in tears after finishing my first ever marathon in five hours and four minutes. I’d like someone to follow in my shoes this year: I want to see tears. 
Actually I will probably cry myself anyway: crossing that finishing line is overwhelming. It’s a fantastic achievement to train for and finish a marathon, and I know we all have doubts at this point - but we will do it.  
This time around I’m aiming to come in under the five hours and improve on last year’s performance. The only pressure is coming from myself and will probably make me a nervous wreck by the time Sunday comes. 
I know the route now as well as anyone can, having run over and over it again in training. And in fairness, it’s not that bad - it’s got some beautiful views and there’s  a good mixture of inclines and flats - although there’s more than enough hills too: you’ll remember Barrow for the rest of your life!
Training has flown this year and I feel like I haven’t enough done at all.  And now to add to my woes I have an inflamed tendon which I’ve been resting for the past week in the hope it gets me through the day. 
Six months of training and I get hit by an injury in my last week! I know they say this can be part of the taper, but it’s not fair! 
I keep going over and over the route in my head, and poring over the map. It’s actually hard to believe that we are going to run the entire red line on the map. It’s absolutely unreal! 
I know all the advice is to calm down take it bit by bit and all that - but it’s panic, panic, and more panic for me. 
What keeps me going? I know that in a few days time, I’ll be able to say I’ve  completed my second marathon!
Can I call myself a real athlete now? I think I can anyway. I may not be a professional but I’ve been training five days a week for this. Does Usain Bolt do that? Mo Farrah? Sonia O’Sullivan? I’m in good company! I have to say thanks to Marcus Howeltt and Jim McNeice for making me join the Born to Run club last year. 
I laughed at them when they said it would change my life - but running has transformed it, and I love it. 
So despite the panic and the fear I am looking forward to March 16th and crossing the finish line. We’re born to run - let’s go and do it!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

21 miles and counting!

It's tough - there’s no other way to describe a run of 21 miles. Nobody could call it easy - and if they do, they’re mad. I can’t believe that I managed to actually run 21 miles last Saturday morning but I did, and I am going to boast about it - because it is an achievement. 
This is the third time in my life that I have ever ran 21 miles - this time last year in my first round of training for the Kerry’s Eye Tralee International Marathon, and of course on the big day itself and again this year. 
Still, I found it very tough this year. I felt every mile. I was tired from mile three, not to mind miles 10, 15, or 20. 
In fact, mile 20 to 21 was the longest mile of my life. I thought it would never finish. 
I was so glad to see the Oyster Tavern and the end of 21miles, but it does go to show that no matter how much you feel like you can’t go on, you are stronger than you think and you can keep going. It’s really a matter of mind over matter. 
I was disappointed by my time a little but I’m not dwelling on it because the achievement is in doing 21 miles at all. 
I changed the route slightly so I did the first lap on our normal route and then continued into Tralee the same way as the marathon will, taking in The Kerries, into St Joseph’s Estate and up Caherslee. 
Last year The Kerries killed me psychologically, as I had never run past the Oyster and wasn’t familiar with it. This year I’ve bypassed that problem although either way by that stage I am going to be wrecked. 
Although I am not injured my glutes are a bit tight and worked against me on Saturday. I hope to get those sorted this week and hopefully this will help on March 16th.
However, if the big day goes similar to my training run I might just make it across the finish line in under the five hours, which is what I want.
But of course I want more than that too. I would love to knock 15 mins off but I’m not sure if I am able. Sill, I’m trying to stay positive. 
I was exhausted after the 21 miles but the support in the Oyster Tavern revived me no end. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many Born to Run members and supporters bring out supplies to the Oyster Tavern. 
We had absolutely everything from sausage rolls, chocolate biscuits, sandwiches, cakes and of course tea and coffee. 
Of course the Dashboard Diner by Catherine and Gretta has led the way here and everyone has come on board with them. 
It was nearly worth running 21 miles just for the treats - whoever makes the biscuit cake, I’m in love with it - can I have some on the finish line on the big day? Also sausage rolls are my new food. They tasted so good after 21 miles I actually had to get more in town later. They were the nicest thing I ever tasted after a run. The Jaffa cakes and water in Fenit were also well received. I’m telling you - Jaffa cakes are the secret weapon. 
Now the big day is drawing closer, I have already started to run in my dreams every night so at this rate of going I will be exhausted by the time March 16th arrives. 
I keep dreaming that I will get lost or that I will be really slow or that I won’t make it and I am running every mile over and over again in my head. Definitely obsessed. 
And despite doing it last year, I can’t believe how nervous I am about this year’s run. I think I’m definitely worse than last year - and I was bad then!
But all I had to do was cross the line last year; this year I have to improve - no pressure! 
I am now giving out to myself for not training more and pushing myself more. I think I did all that but it seems to have gone so fast this year I just can’t believe it’s only a matter of weeks away. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A personal best!

Ater a week of brutal storms,  somehow the sun managed to come out in all its glory on Saturday morning, as we lined up for the inaugural Valentine’s Weekend 10-mile Road Race on Saturday, February 15th. 
Thanks to this unexpected bonus of warm sunshine, the atmosphere was unbelievable at the starting line. The excitement was evident in all of the 620 runners who lined out.
Each had their own reasons for running - some just to finish a 10-mile race, others aiming for a personal best or to beat a previous time, and some just running for fun. 
I’m still not sure what my reasons were - but I was definitely aiming to try and get a good time, so the pressure was on a small bit. 
However, I tried to pretend that I didn’t care what I did in case it threw me, as I’ve learned that creating too much expectation can be a bad thing.
The support along the route was also an added bonus and it was great to see supporters clapping the runners. This positive support also showcased the best of Tralee, which is fast becoming a venue for great sporting events. 
The crowd really pulled us along on the first few miles as everyone was pretty much together as we travelled up towards Caherslee and out The Spa towards Fenit. The first few miles went smoothly enough even though I did find myself running faster than normal but I found I could keep it up. Maybe this fitness lark is working after all!
I hate The Kerries - I think that everyone who ran the marathon last year does - so I wasn’t happy when I turned down the Kerries road to head for Higgins Waste.
But actually, those few miles are not anywhere as bad as I remember from the marathon, which goes to show how your mind changes when you’re tired. 
I honestly thought there were major hills on that route, and while it can’t be called flat, it’s nothing like I thought it was. 
The really good thing about the whole race is that there was always a runner beside you, and there was great camaraderie between us all as we each pushed ourselves.  
A 10 miler is a nice distance I think - it’s not too long like a full marathon but it goes beyond the more normal 10k distance, so it’s a great achievement to have under your belt. 
The hardest part was the pull out of Knockmoyle and the road out to the lock gates. It just seemed so long - I suppose because I was getting tired. But thanks to a young spectator who fed me a Jaffa Cake, I was able to keep going. The sun beating down on my head didn't help I am used to training in hailstone so these conditions are not good for me. I am sure some people love sun for running, I on the other hand would have preferred it be overcast. 
I have to say thanks to all the spectators, as they really helped, and while it might not see like a big deal going out, it really does boost the participants. 
The canal was tough, but not as lonely as the marathon last year, so I got through, although I did feel like giving up on a few twists and turns. 
It felt like it took ages to reach Prince’s Street and finally the finish line was in sight, and a final push. 
I have to say I was thrilled to finish in 1.40 - a personal best for me - and I think a respectable time at last. 
I have to say thanks to Joanne Allman for pushing me, as I tend to get lazy and believe I can’t run faster than I am going, when I actually can. 
I think my training is definitely paying off, so for all those out there who think they can’t improve, just keep training and you will. 
This time last year it would have taken me two hours to do that time but look at me this year - 1.40 and it’s all from just doing my training, and nothing else. That's 10 minute miles which is fast for me and now of course the curse of all runners is that have managed that much I have to improve on it. Its a never ending cycle and what keeps you addicted to running. I don’t know if I can actually keep that pace for the whole 26.2 miles of the full marathon but hopefully I will do it faster than last year and that will keep me happy!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Marathon runners are mad!

I have to say IT: marathon runners are mad. We’re all mad - there’s no other word for it. Nobody in their right mind gets up at 6.30am in wind, hail and rain to run 18 miles - except lunatics.  
Standing at the Oyster Tavern on Sunday morning at 7.30am, I definitely came to the conclusion that nobody should be out of bed in this weather. Yet we managed to run 18 miles.
The first few were tough going though, especially with the hail hitting our faces. And let me tell you - it hurts: I expected to get home with marks on my face. 
Luckily, the weather actually improved and we had sunshine by the end. The wind nearly blew me away on Barrow Hill. I was actually running up Barrow and being blown backwards down it. 
Barrow Hill is hard enough without fighting the elements and boy was I glad when I reached the top. 
I didn’t have the best run on Sunday due to a dodgy runner’s tummy, so making it around the 18 miles was a feat in itself. But in my new positive mood, I’m not letting it get to me. The fact that I did 18 miles and felt pretty good at the end is enough for me. 
In fact, I even managed to run fast for the last few minutes - something I was never able to do before. 
And it was nearly worth running the 18 miles just to eat the homemade rocky road on offer after the run! I burnt off all these calories and then put them back on by eating chocolate - but who cares? I deserve it after getting up at 6.30am and running that far.
This weekend is a rest weekend, and it’s the Valentine’s 10 mile run. so it’s a relatively short one. I love saying that - only 10 miles! Sure it’s a walk in the park! 
Okay, it’s not that easy really, but when you compare it to 18 miles, it’s fine. 
I’m actually looking forward to the 10 miler: it’s a nice challenge but not too tough and hopefully I will do okay. 
I am, of course, looking forward to my heart medal - it’s the only heart I’ll be getting on Valentine’s weekend! 
It will take pride of place in my medal collection. It’s a very small medal collection but it’s getting bigger and soon I will have a second marathon medal too! 
I read back last year’s blog and I was super excited about reaching 18 miles and although it’s different second time around, there’s still a sense of pride and confidence that I can in fact run that far. 
I was trying to think the other day what my life was like before I started running. 
It’s only been over a year since I first joined ‘Born to Run’ but I don’t know what I did before. It seems so weird to think of not running - it’s definitely one of the best things I ever did mainly because I have a whole new lifestyle and group of friends. 
In fact, I’m nearly getting sad that the marathon training is now over. I can’t believe it - only one more long run to go before the big day. 
I’m actually feeling confident this week and I think I might be able to improve my time this year - or at least get home under the five hours anyway. 
I don’t want to become too confident as it will come back to haunt me if it takes me longer this year, but I think my running has improved. 
I’m definitely stronger which I think may also have to do with my strength and conditioning class with Tralee Tri Club, and that’s definitely a bonus. 
I’ve learnt a lot more about running and refuelling this year and if I can get over the mental block, I should be okay.
Here’s hoping anyway!

Keep on believing!

I’m back in action! My last few blogs have been a bit depressing and I was finding it tough to gear myself up for another marathon. But after a fantastic 15 mile run I remembered why I signed up for this madness! 
Since I joined the Born to Run club last year my whole life has changed and for the better and I know I can do any challenge I want to. 
26.2 miles is tough - but it can be done. And the only way really is to believe in yourself. I had forgotten that for a while - there will always be bad runs when it seems like you are not making progress, but you are, as every run means you are putting in the miles and getting fitter. 
It doesn’t matter if the 12 miles was tough or the 14 miles, every run is different and will stand to you. 
Maybe my fitness has improved in recent weeks as I found the 15 mile run relatively okay. I won’t say its was great - 15 miles is still 15 miles - but it wasn’t that bad. 
Not even Barrow could beat me and I made it up, slowly and surely. I always find the route from Barrow to Fenit long but this flew by as well, and while I was tired when I made it back to the Oyster Tavern, I think I could have managed a few more miles. 
The 16 miler was a little tougher. I did this on Friday evening after work as I wanted to take the weekend off and enjoy an alcoholic drink for a change. 
Once upon a time I was out every weekend - now it’s a rare occasion and one that must fit in around my training. So off I set on Friday evening so as to make sure I did my run too - that’s dedication for you! 
I actually missed running the route. As it was in Tralee it was obviously flatter but tragically I can’t say this made it easier. The first 12 miles were fine and I felt comfortable but 12 is my limit it seems, as I had to pull myself through the last four miles.
A fall at mile 6 also didn’t help and nearly resulted in an injury when I put my hands out to save myself and jerked my shoulder. 
Still feeling the effects of it, but I am hoping it is nothing serious. It’s not stopping me training - so that’s what counts.  
We included the last few miles of the marathon into our Tralee route and I am not at all taken with the ‘skinny mile’ as it has become known, from Mounthawk to Rock Street. It is the longest mile ever.  
I hear the conditions for the Saturday morning runners was tough, so fair dues to everyone who completed it in the wind and the rain. I had it easier and still found it tough.  
This weekend is only 12 miles so I am super excited as it is not a real long run. Imagine - 12 miles can now be considered a short run! 
We’re doing the 10 mile Valentine’s Route so I am looking forward to running that in advance. However, it has to be said I am not looking forward to The Kerries. Those few miles last year in the marathon were so tough that I have pretty much written The Kerries out of existence and I refuse to go there, unless absolutely necessary. 
I’ve made a promise to myself that I will not keep looking at my times anymore and just enjoy my training. 
Once I finish, I finish - but I had to have a sneak peek at last year’s 15 mile and 16 mile run and I’m on average 15 minutes faster than this time last year, which is a result. It may not translate on the day of the race but fingers crossed it will. 
Our next long run is 18 miles and then the Valentine’s 10 mile Road Race and a 21 miler and its time to taper down. 
That’s all that is left in our training programme and already I am having withdrawals. 
It has gone so fast this year it’s unbelievable. But it’s also exciting that in a short few weeks I will have another marathon under my belt.