Good Pains in Strange Places

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I’ve started going to the gym and for the first time in a long time, I’m bringing back strength and conditioning sessions in a big way. But boy, it does hurt so good.

Strength and conditioning is an area I confess to having neglected in all my years running. Lifting dumbbells, doing squats and squeezing out a few press-ups are all the types of exercise I would typically hate. I always felt they were boring exercises- like sport without any of the joy. Coming up to marathon training time, I’d resolve to make sure I did at least one proper session per week and then also including a few exercises in my everyday post-run routine, such as heel lifts, wall-sits and planks.

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But in all honesty, I probably have not been doing as much as I should have been doing and now that I’m out of (temporarily!) the running game and sitting on the sidelines, injured for the foreseeable, I can’t help but wonder if I had been more diligent about my strength and conditioning training, I might not be injured right now. I might still be running about blissfully ignorant and injury-free.

I’m not a shoulda, coulda, woulda person though, so I bring this up as topic not to dwell on the past but to learn, plan and build for the future. I want to be stronger, I want to be faster and I always want to be better. (I don’t need to be higher 😉 )

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…and I always want to eat scones.

What’s the Plan?

Joined a gym, had a personal consultation and have a training plan. 2-3 days a week, I’ll be doing an hour of strength work, mixed with a short interval of cardio. In addition to that, I’ll be out on the bike at weekends and as the days start to get longer, I hope to get out a few mornings or evenings before or after work. I hope to get in one or two swims during the week too.

My program consists of:

  • Chest presses
  • Leg presses
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Russian Twists
  • Face Pulls
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • 15-20 minutes cardio (I’m having a go at rowing to try something different…)

Nothing revolutionary here – and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably be very familiar with most of these exercises. What I like particularly about this program is that it aims to build a basic level of strength and it also incorporate specific exercises that will be good for running, when I start back.

Leg presses will help develop the quad muscles as well as the glutes – also excellent for cycling (and my butt!)

Step-ups are a simple but excellent strengthening exercise that every runner should be including in their daily routine –  as well as the exercise helping to work the glutes, quads and your core, this move also helps to develop good balance and running form. I quite like doing these too.

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Planks and Russian Twists – work your core/ abs mostly but planks are an overall excellent strength exercise.

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I did the full program for the first time during the week and while I enjoyed doing that night… oh my sweet Lord, did it hurt the next day. I know since not being able to run for 10 months, my arms, abs (and general upper body) have just gone to flop. You just don’t use your arms that much on the bike and your entire upper body is more or less stationary for the entire ride – you don’t use it at all the way you do when running. So right now, I have NO upper body strength. It’s pathetic.

I could not lift my arms above waist height on Thursday after my weights session on Wednesday night. And there were aches and tendernesses in back muscles and shoulder places I have never felt before. Have you ever seen a person trying to massage their own back muscles? Not an attractive look. I cared not!

So onward and strong-ward! If you are also someone who has been avoiding strength work because you too find it boring and tedious, please PLEASE heed my advice and just do it anyway. Find a way to get it into your week – if you’re not someone who enjoys lifting dumbbells or churning out squats, then go to a class like bodypump or bootcamp. Ignore this element of your training and it could end up costing you dearly – both literally or figuratively.

Let me put to you this way – would you rather spend your hard earned wages on physiotherapy, MRI scans, doctor’s appointments, blood tests and consultant visits (still with no diagnosis or end in sight…) OR on the entry fee to the Boston Marathon?

Easy, right?

 

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Let’s Talk About Feet (again)

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Full disclosure-these are not my feet but I love this picture. Happy feet or what?!

I’ve talked about my feet so many times on this blog that I’m starting to feel they have more of a presence than I have on here. In fairness, their drama, trips, days out, dates and life in general has been far more exciting than my own of late…

For those who don’t know (and have been saved that pedi-saga) I injured both feet in the run-up to the Paris marathon 2016, in or about March last year, which has resulted in me being benched from running for nearly 10 months now. Since then, I’ve seen numerous physiotherapists, a GP, a chiropodist and two orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in feet – all of whom have given me a different diagnosis in terms of the source of the pain in my feet. The first physio told me it was soft tissue damage, “just a battering” from all the marathon training. The second physio (from the same clinic) told me it was NOT a soft tissue injury at all, rather it was more likely a rheumatological condition, possibly rheumatoid arthritis.

On foot of what physio no.2 said, I visited my GP who ran blood tests which confirmed no inflammatory markers in my bloods. So, she ruled out the possibility that the cause of my foot pain was rheumatoidal. She referred me on to an orthopaedic specialist who specialises in foot problems on the basis that the pain could be a result of a stress fracture. On inspection of my feet, this orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that indeed the source of my foot pain was most likely a result of a stress fracture – 90% sure it was a stress fracture in the 5th metatarsal – to be precise.

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Went for an MRI… went back to Mr. Ortho… no stress fracture, anywhere in my feet. He then promptly informed me that he could do nothing further for me given that the problem did not appear to be a bone problem nor could he offer any opinion on what was wrong with my feet.

At this point, I cried.

It had been 9 months of different experts, with wildly different views on what is wrong with my damn feet. And here I was, after spending a chunk of money on all these guys and having not been able to go for a run in so long standing in a car park outside a hospital thinking I’m never going to be able to run again…. and not one person can tell me what is wrong with me. So I cried. With my Dad (who had kindly come with me to the appointment) looking at me like I was crazytown.

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This week I went to see another orthopaedic (foot) surgeon for a second opinion, which if nothing else, was hilarious. What my mother calls a good old-fashioned surgeon- glasses, dicky bow, abrupt, utterly unsympathetic, impatient and entirely forthright and opinionated – I loved it. After examining my feet, he took the view that I have basically bad feet. I have splayed, wide feet, with bunions, swelling in the forefoot and collapsed arches – basically, all these factors combined mean that the mechanics of my feet is all off. He told me that the custom orthotics I had made many years ago were useless on their own and that they would not be effective without accompanying exercises to make them work.

So what did he decide should be the next step? A physio! No, but not just anyone, he specifically recommended a Dublin physio who has worked with Athletics Ireland specialising in sports injuries with good experience. Given that this glowing referral came from a man who strikes me as exceptionally hard to impress, I’m expecting great things. I’m honestly very excited and feeling more positive about this than I have in months.

I have an appointment in 2 weeks time and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I also have an appointment to see a rheumatologist to investigate my Reynaud’s and just to rule out any rheumatoidal cause of my foot pain.

For the moment, I am still cycling away at weekend and early mornings before work, when I can. The mornings are slowly getting brighter earlier and the days are starting to stretch out and I can’t wait for those long Summer days… I also just joined a gym to action my new year’s resolution to get stronger this year. Strength and conditioning is an area I’ve neglected for a long time and I’m hoping if I can work on it, it might help with my feet/ knee/other injuries going forward.

Injuries suck, no doubt. I miss running massively. Word. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like there’s hope that maybe some day in the near (ish) future, one of these experts will tell me it’s time to run again.

And what a wonderful day that will be. Happy running folks, enjoy!

Instead of Running Dublin Marathon 2016

I did not run today’s Dublin Marathon this year for the first time in 6 years. It’s been emotional folks, I’m not gonna lie.

Driving home from the city on Friday night, I passed through part of the route, spying posters and traffic diversion signs warning of the impending traffic disruptions, metal barriers stacked nearly on pavements patiently waiting to line the streets before sunrise on race day.

I actually cried.

Laughing at myself – while crying – but crying all the same.

I love the Dublin Marathon more than any other race I’ve ever done but unfortunately due to ongoing stress fracture injuries in my feet, I had to give it a miss this year. Today was the big day, with over 19,000 runners due to take part, making it the biggest Dublin Marathon yet. This year marked the first time the race has been run on the Sunday of the Bank holiday October weekend, having been moved from its usual spot on the Monday, and the result is that numbers increased by approximately 6,000 participants. Huge.

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St Stephen’s Green was picture perfect autumn yesterday as I strolled through it on my way to do some light serious shopping.

And what a day it turned out to be. THE most perfect autumn day – bright, blue skies, cool but not too cold, hardly any wind and beautiful autumn sunshine. Excellent running conditions and I could just imagine crossing that finish line, meeting up with family and hanging out in town afterwards with Dublin its very finest. Alas, at least 19,000 other people would get to this today. All that happiness and achievement makes me very happy indeed!

I considered going in to cheer on the courageous marathoners but in the end I decided against it, as I’d likely just end up crying on the sidelines and feeling bad about my stupid, seemingly endless injuries. I’ll happy to cheer at other races, but this one is the one closest to my dumb sentimental heart.

Instead, I decided a more positive approach would be to do something at the same time as the marathon in some kind of sympathetic companionship with the marathoners. So, I got up early and headed off on a long cycle into the countryside, beginning at the same time that I would’ve been starting the marathon!

It’s a little sad, I’ll admit, but you know what? Who cares?!

From Naas, I cycled to Sallins, Clane and straight on to the Baltracey crossroads, where I turned left for Timahoe. I swung a right turn in Timahoe and headed out across the bog road for Clougharinka, which turned out to be gorgeous. Honestly, I just noticed Cloughrinka on a map one day and liked the sound of the name, so I fancied cycling there to have a look at the place. It’s a teeny village but the area around it is all trees, ruins and bursting with colour at the moment.

From Cloughrinka, I turned toward Edenderry (another place I’d never been to in Ireland!) and from there, I turned right in the town across the bog road toward Rathangan. The first bog road was fine but this one… aye, it was never-ending! I could see from the map that it was just this long straight road but I didn’t think it would actually feel that long… but unfortunately the road surface was fairly poor and made for heavy cycling. Boy was I glad to get to Rathangan! Having cycled through Rathangan many times before, I knew it would be a speedy route home and I was able to re-focus and just pedal for home.

100 km round trip – making this the first time I’ve ever ridden 100 km! I know that’s not much to some people, but it’s a big milestone for me and it really makes me appreciates how the professionals will ride between 200-300km a day in the Tour de France AND with insane mountain climbs AND cycling at twice the speed that I would. Not to mention day after day after day.

Gladiators of men, if you ask me.

After my cycle, I had a long hot bath (complete with coffee and chocolate, if you’re curious 😉 ) just as I would have done if I had done the marathon today, followed by something to eat and a good movie while elevating my tired legs.

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I also dropped into M&S to get a bread roll. Where’d all that other stuff come from??? #TheM&Seffect

Today was not the day I would have liked it to be back in January, when I first signed up for the Dublin marathon but with a little bit of effort and enthusiasm, I turned what could otherwise have been a very sad day, into something very positive.

Injuries happen. Life happens. Things crop up that get in the way of good plans and the path we’ve laid out for ourselves. It’s okay to get upset, it’s okay to get angry and it is okay to cry. But get back up, shake yourself off and always have another run at it. Just never give up and never give in, because it’s a beautiful day out there and you are NOT going to want to miss it.

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Accidentally stumbling across this in M&S is also partly responsible for the joy I’m feeling right now. Never seen before in Ireland!!

Well done to everyone who braved the Dublin Marathon today, you incredible people you. Huge congratulations and enjoy your well-earned time off and celebrations. What an achievement, be proud!

Dublin Marathon 2016

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Are you running the 2016 Dublin Marathon? If so, you are a lucky, lucky person in for a beautiful day of running. A great day to be alive! For those who are not, due to injury or otherwise, I commiserate entirely with you, being benched myself this year for the first time in 5 years.

The Dublin Marathon is without doubt, my favourite day of the year – trumping Christmas and my birthday, just to be clear. From the terrific route, unreal atmosphere and the best magnetic crowd support, this road race is, in my opinion, unrivalled on the Irish running scene.

What Do You Need to Know?

With just 7 days left until race day, the countdown to the start of the Dublin marathon 2016 has well and truly begun. Runners will be crossing off the days on their calendar as they pace themselves through the final days of their taper and preparing mentally as well as practically.

To help you out here’s a few things to keep in mind from now until Sunday:

Tapering – It looks easy on the running schedule when you see it written down and compare it to all of the other weeks of training you’ve done, but in it’s own peculiar way, it is one of the hardest weeks of training you’ll do. Personally, it wrecks my head…but I know it works and is worth the mental turmoil so just try to relax, take lots of deep breaths and trust your training plan.

You will all have your own versions of a taper plan but general rules of thumb are to incrementally reduce your overall weekly mileage 2-3 weeks before race day, maintaining the number of days you run and the usual level of effort involved in each session – but reducing the number of miles you would normally run in each session. You’re aiming to rest your legs and allow for increased repair and recovery by doing less miles, but you simultaneously want to keep your legs sharp and maintain pace memory.

Don’t freak out. Don’t be cranky. And try not to lose it. Every year, I do this – unusually high levels of energy due to less running coupled with pre-marathon jitters is a recipe for a jumpy runner! You have been warned.

Toast Honey

Food – By now you’ve practised with different food (and drinks) before, during and after training and hopefully too with races. The week before race week is NOT the time to start experimenting with new things. It’s coming to the end of a marathon training cycle and it may well be the case that you’re getting bored of your banana on toast or bagel with honey…My advice?

Suck it up.

You can eat something different next week – when you’re not about to run 26.2 miles and subject your body to massive physical demands which significantly hinges on the digestive system and your body’s ability to produce energy.

Don’t make it harder for yourself. Trust me when I say eat the foods that you know work and leave experimenting to the next cycle of training.

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Tried and tested.

Carbo-Loading – On a similar note, there is a lot of advice bouncing around about “carbo-loading” before a marathon. 2 things:

  1. White – In the days before a marathon, it can be good to reduce the amount of fibre you normally take in as this will make it easier on your digestive system on race day. For this week, it’s okay to switch from wholegrain everything to white everything.
  1. Don’t Stuff Your Face – Carbo-loading does not mean simply add extra high carb foods to your daily intake. Aim to increase the percentage of carbs in your normal daily intake of food, rather than just adding it on as an “as well as”. Eating excessive amounts of carbs, particularly on a week when you’re running less, could leave you feeling bloated, heavy and might affect your weight- the last thing you want after all your hard work is to end up feeling like crap on race day.

Gear

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Get EVERYTHING ready well ahead of time. No need for stress.

Make a list of everything you plan to be wearing on race day, as well as anything you need before and after the race. A throwaway top for waiting around before the race, a black plastic bag in case it’s raining (and a cap), food and drinks for immediately after the race, dry clothes… Try to think of everything now and get it all ready a few days before the race. This always helps to calm me and it gives me plenty of time to think of anything I might have forgotten. Leaving this to the last minute the day before a race can make you frazzled. Again, unnecessary hassle and wasted energy.

The Expo – The expo in the RDS is always great and I love chatting to visiting stalls about foreign marathons, like in Scotland or France and browsing through all of the running bling. But be selective – don’t be tempted to spend too long on your feet. More wasted energy and glycogen seeping away!

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Abandon all hope ye who enter here…

Route

This year will see the route remain the same as last year, having incorporated a few changes in last year’s edition to accommodate ongoing Luas works. A few tips:

  • 2 Mile – Watch your pace after you pass the 2 mile mark. You’ll come along the quays of the Liffey, cross over and head uphill on Blackhall Place. It’s early and you’ll be a combination of nerves and wanting to set a good pace BUT Blackhall Place up into Stoneybatter is all uphill so don’t push too hard. Be patient here.
  • 3  – 7 Mile – Mind the Incline (again) This is a more subtle gradient than Blackhall Place and because it’s early on too, you might not pay as much attention to this as you should. Listen to me when I say this – IT IS ALL INCLINE THROUGH THE PHOENIX PARK as you make your way along Chesterfield Avenue. DO NOT worry about your pace and DO NOT push too hard here. I did that a few years ago, being anxious about not getting too far behind my goal pace in the early miles and the result was my quads blew up after 16 miles. Once you’ve left the park and passed through the great crowds in Castleknock, there’ll be a sharp left turn and a nice downhill. Just be patient for it.
  • 21/ 22 Mile – Clonskeagh and Roebuck Hills – Heartbreak Hill. Beware Be aware that there is a climb awaiting you as you turn onto Clonskeagh Road and make your way up Dublin’s version of Heartbreak Hill around the back of UCD. There’s a Lucozade station to look forward to here so focus on that, just keep tapping forward and keep in mind – once you get over this hill, you’re downhill onto the Stillorgan road and on the home straight. This is always a favourite point in the race for me – it’s at this point I know roughly what time I’m going to finish in and more importantly, I KNOW I’m going to finish the race and I can really start to suck up the atmosphere and just enjoy every last minute of it.

Relax. Marathon day is reward day. You’ve done the hard part – the weeks and weeks of early mornings, late evenings, speed sessions, long runs, disciplined diet and social life. Now is your time. Now is when you get to do what you love most – lace up your runners and run one of the best marathons there is (if you ask me!). If your nervous, that’s ok – it would be frankly quite inhuman if your body was not nervous about what you were about to physically subject it to. Nerves are natural. Nerves are good. But control them and don’t let them take control.

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Chill time people, don’t fight it.

Rest. As much as you can this week, don’t walk if you can drive and don’t stand when you can sit. Sleep properly and early. And do not fill your extra time with spinning classes, housework or clearing out your storeroom. Your goal this week: avoid spending any energy you don’t need to. Energy conservation is your mission should you choose to accept it. Regular stretching and foam-rolling are also good to keep your muscles from getting too tight.

Enjoy This Time. You’ve spent ages getting to this point and often we blitz through the run-up to a marathon fretting about getting organised. It doesn’t need to be that way. Sit back, soak up the excitement and look forward to Sunday.

Because it is going to be truly great and you are not going to want to miss it 😉

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Fitzwilliam Place, starting line. Best place to be this Sunday at 9am

Are you one of the lucky ones taking part in the Dublin Marathon this year? Best of luck to you and would love to hear from you if you are! Go n-eiri an bothar leat!

Dublin Ironman 70.3: Race Report

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There is something in life that human beings crave above all else. Emotion, elation, ecstasy – teetering on the brink of an out-of-body experience that allows us mere mortals a momentarily glimpse of what heaven must be like. For some people, that’s sex. For others it’s heroin, cocaine, MDMA or other chemical formation that sets the senses alight. And for those who enjoy a bit of suffering and endurance as foreplay, that’s a marathon.

I can still remember that wave of ecstasy and joy as I ran the final mile of my first marathon in 2008 and the overwhelming bombardment of emotions as I crossed the finish line. Delighted to have completed the distance, utterly exhausted, aching all over, while bursting with pride and joy, and all I felt like doing was crying. Completely ridiculous, but there it was.

Ever since then, I’ve been chasing that same rush – that level of emotion, ecstasy and sheer satisfaction of achievement. Much like any addict, I’ve experienced similar highs since that first one, completing other marathons and triathlons of various distances, but never to the same extent. In fact, my times have come down quite a bit and I’m a much more accomplished runner/swimmer/cyclist now, but not since that first marathon have I ever experienced that same level of utter overwhelming emotion and satisfaction at the end of a race where you’ve had to dig down deep into your soul to get to that finish line.

Until yesterday.

I did it. I did IT. I DID it.

I did an Ironman 70.3 yesterday.

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Got my tats.

It might not have been pretty, it might not have been a winning time and God knows, I will NOT be buying those race photos, but I did cross the finish line, I did get a medal and yes, I now have the t-shirt.

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The race could not have had a better day. The morning started off dry and warm as the 2000 odd (in more ways than one…) triathletes assembled at the Forty Foot in Sandycove for the first leg of the race, a 1.9 km swim out into Scotsman’s Bay. The course was lined with yellow buoys, most helpful as compared with most triathlon swim courses which often only have a single buoy at each turning point. The extra buoys allowed you to keep on course more easily and thereby give more energy to the actual swim as well as avoiding being kicked or punched in the head. I actually did get quite a bash to the head at one stage but having remained conscious, I considered that a victory 😉

The conditions in the water were good, not too choppy or windy and I didn’t notice much of a current. From about 1.4 km onward (ish) I did start to tire a bit and was glad when the course turned back into the bay. On towards the giant yellow Ironman banner and we were soon out of the water and onto the bikes, after a quick dash and grab through the blue bag transition area.

I loved the bike leg. The cycle used to be the worst part of a triathlon for me. I was crap at it and it’s always the longest part, so not a winning combination. But since my foot injury and not being able to run, I’ve been cycling a lot more and as regular readers might tell you, have become a little obsessed with it. So when it came to the bike leg yesterday, I was game ball.

The roads were all closed for the race which allowed competitors a rare experience of racing through Dublin city centre in the middle of the road. It was such a treat. From Dun Laoighre, the cycle route ran straight along the Coast into Ringsend past early morning walkers and supporters (and people merrily making their way home after a night on the town…!) Across the Liffey, we then powered along the quays, securely held by watchful Gardai and more late night stragglers 😀 The course then passed along the outskirts of the Phoenix Park, up Chapelizod hill and out towards Lucan, Maynooth and Dunboyne, taking in 3 counties, before looping back to the Phoenix Park.

I felt good on the bike and despite some rain for much of the second leg, I really enjoyed it. Marking the longest distance I’ve ever cycled before, I expected to feel tired by 70/80 km but the reverse turned out to be true. After 50km I began to feel strong. My legs felt good and despite some lower back pain, I was able to push on and found myself flying the last 30km, sailing past strong, toned, young men on fancy dancy carbon bikes. Me and my entry level alloy certainly had fun in this race 😉

A final spin around the Phoenix Park and the bikes were docked and swapped for running shoes.That was where the pain began. I did not intend to do the run at all. I’ve been injured and have not ran for 4 months, apart from one moment of madness. I had decided I was going to “play it by ear” –  a phrase I’ve never really understood but you know where I’m going with it. Popped on the shoes and tottled out onto the run course, where I swiftly realised my legs were borderline useless and making it to 1km was going to be hard.

I shuffled at a rate of next-to-useless. It was not a good run and it was certainly not my strongest moment. I took it 1km at a time and decided I’d just finish the first lap and then stop. I walked a couple of times and I stopped at every feed station. But as I approached the finish area, I found myself deciding that maybe I might just do the 2nd lap and then I could stop. I still hadn’t spotted my Dad at that stage so also thought it might be no harm to go around again in case he was standing somewhere else along the course and I didn’t want to miss (or lose!) him.

On the 2nd lap I knew this was definitely DEFINITELY the last lap, legs were not working and my energy levels were zip. More water stations, stopped a couple more times to walk for a second. But as I was shuffling along, I was looking at everyone else around me, also suffering, also grimacing but nobody giving up. Then I started to ask myself – do I think I should stop because of my foot injury or do I just want to stop because this is really f-ing hard? My foot actually wasn’t hurting (very oddly) so I quickly came to the conclusion that if I did quit the race early, it would not have been justified and I’d likely go home that evening feeling guilty, that I’d wossed out and quit. And above all, I did not want that on my conscience.

Bobbing along up to the end of the 2nd lap, I’d already decided I was going to do the last lap, whether it meant walking, shuffling or crawling. I spotted my Dad, gave him a high five and told him “1 more lap!” More water stations, more walking and more shuffling. The only plus side was that every time I passed something now, I was reminded that this is my last lap and I will never be seeing that tree, person, water station, etc again and let me tell ya – for the suffering runner, that gives you an almighty boost! By the last 2 miles, everything was hurting and my legs were simply hanging.

Chesterfield Avenue, final kilometre – I found my legs. Started passing people for the first time in the entire 13 mile leg, and as the Ironman finishing gate came into view, I could feel a final sprint coming on. I rounded the corner, high-fived the race commentator and bounded toward the line with the stupidest grin on my face you could imagine. Crossing that line, I felt every bit of emotion, ecstasy and elation I felt in my very first marathon and more.

Relief, achievement, pride, joy, excitement, disbelief and absolute sheer physical exhaustion and satisfaction. An overwhelming wave of emotions washed over me and there it was- bursting to cry. It only took 6 hours 28 minutes of swimming, cycling and running, physically pouring out every drop of energy in my body into the earth, sea and air around me.

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Got the bling bling

This was an exceptionally well-organised event and fair play to Ironman who obviously know how to run a good race. The swim, the bike and the run legs were well marked and marshalled. Not all good however and I do have a few complaints, as others did too and for future events I think it’s good to bring up:

1. Finishing Area – Athletes Only. After collecting medals and white after-race bags, finishers had to cross a path and walk a short distance to a tent for t-shirt collection and food. Not a problem. The problem is that the walk across and indeed the actual tents, were open to the public too which meant a battle to physically find and get into the tent and then squeeze past people to get into the queue for food. When I arrived, there were kids all over the tent eating food that was meant for the racers. That’s not really on, to be fair.

Better thing to do – organise it like you would the end of a marathon, a long finishing chute where you have bag collection, medals, t-shirts, water and food, all in a line and closed off completely to the public. Quick, efficient and so much less hectic and messy. I was too exhausted to keep battling in the tent and fight my way over for food and ended up just leaving it. And I really wanted cake 😦 That’s a big thumbs down lads.

2. Bike and Bag Collection

Poor, poor, poor. This was shockingly bad. The bike racks were to be open from 2.30pm for athletes to come and collect their gear. When I got there just after 2.30pm, I found that the truck containing all the blue bags from the swim transition was only just arriving in the park…. a generous 6.5 hours after the last swimmer would have docked their blue bag in transition. So why did it take 6.5 hours to make a 30 minute trip (being generous here) ?

By 3pm, I was standing in the middle of an ever-growing throng of tired athletes who wanted to just get their gear and go home but now all of sudden found themselves virtually caged into a tight space waiting for the gates to open. It was like another leg of the race. Knackered, low patience, growing faint at all this body heat around me and having not had food due to tent debacle… this was a nightmare.

I made it through in one of the first waves of people they let in to collect their blue bag and bike but many after me were still not being allowed in and I can only imagine might have waited for another hour or so.

THIS WAS VERY VERY POOR ORGANISATION. I’m loathed to let something like that ruin a good race and day out but this should not have happened and really should not have been an issue for people to have to deal with at the end of a half-ironman race. It would be great if they could sort this out for next year.

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Smiling all the way home, despite the kerfuffle!

Overall, I loved it and am so glad I did it. My legs are in bits today, I can’t do stairs yet but I am smiling all the way. Now, all that’s left for me to do is decide firstly, where I’m going for a massage and more importantly … what next?

Terminal???? Probably.

Footy Mad

Anyone not aware of the footy going on at the moment? “Footy” translated, for all my non-Irish (and UK) friends is soccer. To the Australians, I believe it’s Australian rules football and I’m not even sure if the Americans use this word at all. But we do. Footy is soccer and GAA (pronounced Gahhh- need to really lean on that “ahhh” sound there or it doesn’t count) Yep that’s a tangent, but these are need to know facts if you ever want to visit Ireland and not sound like a prat.

Irish people are very judgmental like that. You don’t know how to talk about sport? Pfah, sure you’re only an eejit, now don’t be wasting my time while I talk to this man here about the real game. On with ya!

Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in the Euros last night, sending them through to the next round, shocking the nation and sending man, woman and child into hyper-happy mode. We’re all delighted with life today. We’ll be walloped next weekend by France but we know how to celebrate our victories when we get em 🙂 (you get this way when you back a team is consistently the one not winning but we’ll keep that in small text in a bracket today 😉 )

Well done the Irish soccer team!

On other matters, I’ve started a new job which involves 12 hour shifts, including nights and weekends so I’m in the middle of adjusting to all that at the moment. In the meantime, I had a follow-up appointment with my GP who had my full blood tests back. The highlights (ie.the bits I remember…) were:

  1. Cholesterol – 4.7 (This is fine and where we want it to be)
  2. Calcium levels – fine. I was surprised with this, with a family a history 0f osteoporosis and I wasn’t sure if running or my diet might have adversely impacted on my calcium levels, even though I am conscious of including calcium foods in my diet and taking a supplement. Delighted with this!
  3. White blood cells/ platelet levels are fine (meaning no infections or other illnesses going on there…)
  4. Hematocrit level – 0.32    …so I won’t be banned by UCI just yet. Lance Armstrong would not be impressed with this!) It is a little on the low side and would be better up around 40%. A low hematocrit level indicates anaemia.
  5. Sodium – 130     – ideally 135+…so not that low but still needs to be brought up which the Doc thought could be assisted by not drinking as much water.
  6. B12 – She thought this was also low and needs to be bumped up.

Overall the Doc was happy with everything and more importantly, she was able to categorically rule out any inflammation markers in my blood to indicate any rheumatological condition or cause of my ongoing foot pain.

This is a mini victory because it has ruled out a minefield of conditions that could have been the cause of my foot pain, many of which would be chronic, lifelong conditions. Phew. I feel very lucky right now.

However, the Doc wants to refer me on to a joint specialist to assess my feet and see if they can offer any insight and assistance.The situation at present is unchanged – foot discomfort and strain on the bottom, outsides, arch and particularly in the centre of the ball of both feet (below the 2nd and 3rd toes particularly), worsens to pain when walking, aggravated by resting feet on the ground or putting any kind of pressure on them and…. cannot run.

I am back cycling for a couple of weeks though, having nearly cracked up with not being able to do anything other than swim. I find it I keep it down to under 2.5 hours, it doesn’t make it any worse so I’ll content myself with that. For now 😉

This is stretching out far. too. long. But unfortunately this is a situation I don’t have much control over so I just need to do what I have to do right now and suck it up.

Oh and in the meantime, I seem to have found my new sport… cycleathon. Pretty sure that’s not a word but then spellcheck isn’t picking it up right now so I’m just gonna go with that. You swim, you cycle, you finish. Done. And then you can just watch all those other crazy fuckers run around while you sit on a wall and drink coffee. Hee hee hee.

Yes I am jealous and long to be one of those crazy fuckers too but if you can’t run, there’s always coffee.

Take your victories when you can my friends!

Insomnia Coffee Sambo
When in doubt, Insomnia it out. No complaints here.

Too Much Running Water

Honeycomb

How do you spot a runner? There are many telltale signs that will give away a runner in your midst but what is a sure fire positive indicator is someone who obsessively carries around a bottle of water and guzzles it nearly as often as they breathe.

Running and water are intrinsically and intimately interlinked (how many words beginning with “in” can you say together?!). Running demands water to keep it up and water demands running to keep it…flowing? Yeh, you get the idea. Runners need to drink more water than the average person, or anyone who takes part in physical activity – with an increase in activity levels, human beings secrete more, sweat more or simply put, just lose more water. We need to replace the extra water lost by our bodies during this time so that it is able to carry out its fundamental and vital functions.

This loss of water will be apparent when you pee after taking part in any kind of demanding exercise. Go for a long run and even with taking drinks along the way and after you return, you’ll notice that your pee is much darker than normal and will take a little while to return to normal.

The Basic Stuff – What Does Water ACTUALLY do? We all know water is essential to keep us alive but do you know why?

Fun facts! Your body is mainly water – 50-70%ish. Exactly how much depends on your age, as well as body composition (muscle v fat) because muscle tissue contains more water than fat.

As well as water itself containing minerals and electrolytes, it’s also a solvent. It dissolves other substances and carries nutrients and other material (such as blood cells) around the body, making it possible for every organ to do its job.

A healthy body has just the right amount of fluid inside and outside each cell, a situation medical folk call fluid balance. Maintaining fluid balance in the body is essential to life. Too little water inside a cell, it shrivels and dies. Too much, the cell bursts.

Not that this would be a fun thing to do but… if you had to, you could live without food for weeks at a time, getting subsistence levels of nutrients by digesting your own muscle and fat. But water is different. Without it, you’d die in a matter of days — more quickly in a place warm enough to make you perspire and lose water more quickly.

We need water to:

  • Digest food, dissolving nutrients so that they can pass through the intestinal cell walls into your bloodstream, and move food along through your intestinal tract.

  • Carry waste products out of your body.

  • Provide a medium in which biochemical reactions such as metabolism (digesting food, producing energy, and building tissue) occur.

  • Send electrical messages between cells so that your muscles can move, your eyes can see, your brain can think, and so on.

  • Regulate body temperature — cooling your body with moisture (perspiration) that evaporates on your skin.

  • Lubricate your moving parts.

We lose water every day without being aware of it – through breathing, sweating, urine and bowel movements.

Runners tend to be uber-aware of drinking more water knowing that they have probably sweated off a lot of their water stores during sessions. You’re always conscious of not wanting to deplete the your hydration levels to ensure the body has enough to do its basic work (as above) but also to stave off cramping, which can occur as a result of dehydration.

But Can You Drink Too Much?

Yes.

Holding my hands up here, I was first to dismiss this “too much water” thing as (a) likely to occur to me and (b) in any way a serious issue. Yeh, I’d read about it before and thought about it on and off, but I always thought it would take some extreme water-drinking to get to the stage where it became dangerous. But then I got blood tests back last week which revealed I have very low levels of sodium in my body, that this is likely making me very tired and not good for the functioning of my body.

What is Hyponatremia? Hyponatremia is a condition where due to an intake of too much fluid, the salt concentration in the blood reduces such that water swells the cells and the bloodstream slows. It’s an overhydration of the body that leads to low blood sodium and dilutes the salt levels in your body. Symptoms include nausea, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach bloating, dizziness, muscle spasms, vomiting, and seizures. Acute hyponatremia can have serious consequences, including brain disease, cardiac arrest, cerebral edema, seizures, coma, and death—arguably making hyponatremia the most important health risk many endurance athletes may face.

Hyponatremia occurs most often during marathons and long triathlons, when athletes are exercising longer and drinking more than they do in training. Non-competitive runners who require more than four hours to complete a marathon are more susceptible to hyponatremia than faster athletes. Smaller women may also be more susceptible.

What is too much water? My doctor told me that people who typically are hyponatremic drink between 2-3 litres of water a day (which is me) and she advised me to reduce to no more than 1.5 litres for a week and see how I am then. It’s possible that given that I am not currently running, I don’t need as much water as I would when I’m marathon training, for example and that perhaps this is what’s causing an imbalance.

Now where it can confusing is through what we hear and read about from magazines, newspaper and other media sources. The US Institute of Medicine state that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 3 liters of total beverages a day. For women, 2.2 liters. Then there’s the good old myth to drink 8 glasses of water a day – my personal favourite because what as a kid, I could never decide what glass were they talking about? Big, little, tall, champagne flute? Too many options in my opinion… But the thing to remember is that these figures refer to the TOTAL intake of fluid in a given day. Coffee, soup, soft drinks and even food all count towards replacing lost fluids. S’all going in there.

In other words, you’re probably taking in much more fluid than you realise so don’t get too hung up on the figures.