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Posts tagged ‘Drogheda’

A Monster Update – Hikes, Bikes, PBs and Muck!

With the exception of the Docklands Run report, it has been a while since I’ve written anything new, so apologies to everyone who has continued to read the old posts. The website recently passed the 20,000 view mark – I don’t know where exactly that stands in the pantheon of blog-hits, but it’s a hell of a lot more than I originally expected, which was exactly zero. So thank you for that!

Mile Trial:

So what’s been happening? For the most part, I’ve been plugging away at the shorter distances; it turns out that when you’re not running marathons every other week, the PBs will come tumbling down! You may remember I actually ran a 10k in proper running gear for a change (i.e. no Santa Suit, no ballgown). On that occasion, my time was cut down from just under an hour to 41 minutes and 23 seconds. Not long afterwards, Drogheda and District AC hosted their monthly Mile Trials, which I decided was the perfect opportunity to show up at the track in a Saw Doctors t-shirt…


…with the sleeves ripped off for “aerodynamic purposes”. By the way, if you get that joke – congratulations, you grew up in Ireland in the 2000s. 🙂

As is their habit, Drogheda and District AC had two mile trial events, one on the Tuesday and another on the Thursday. As is my habit, I didn’t change my training one iota beforehand – these days I do mostly weightlifting and for cardio, I cross-train three or four times per week. However, a couple of things happened that were distinctly unexpected – on the first occasion, I managed to cut my one-mile PB down to 5 minutes 39 seconds. Furthermore, unlike almost every other time I’ve cut the PB down, I was able to walk away from the race. No lungs burning, no feeling of imminent heart-attack, no taste of iron in the back of my throat – I still had more to give. Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to have another stab at it on Thursday. On this occasion, I managed to get my splits almost perfect, just over 1min20sec a lap, with an intense sprint to the finish-line alongside Declan Monaghan. Just beating him by a whisker, I came in at 5 minutes and 29 seconds. It seemed that the lucky t-shirt had done its job.

A Weekend of Fun-Runs:

After that came madness. Shivvy Hickey, Jennifer Tweed, Alan Keegan and myself have formed something of an informal running club over the last few months, imaginatively named Team JenAlShivOl. Jenny ,being a vital cog in the wheel of Team JenAlShivOl, was understandably annoyed when she broke her ankle at a Hell and Back-style obstacle race. (Since then, she has ditched the cast and is, in her own words, hobbling around like an 80 year old. Go Jenny!) The only problem was we had a packed schedule of races that weekend – with a 10k obstacle course on the Saturday and a 5k Rainbow Run on the Sunday. Crutches and road-races being exceedingly poor bedfellows, it was up to our fellow DCU alumnus and floppy haired science-man Dave Grimes to fill in.


Leading to the most epic pre-race photo of all time.

The Rainbow Run was a relatively short dalliance around the West Pier in DĂșn Laoghaire. Fun but not overly challenging – more of a Facebook photo opportunity than a serious race. The Mad Craic race was more difficult, being more than twice as long, taking place on a soaking wet day and littered with charming obstacles such as haystacks, neck-deep rivers and barbed wire.


Also, this happened.

The Half-Marathon: Trimming the Fat

However, all of this was prelude to the main event. On August 5th came a race that Shivvy and myself had both been looking forward to for a long time – the Dublin Rock n Roll Half-Marathon. I had only ever competed in one half-marathon before; it was in a tiny Meath parish called Bohermeen back in March 2012. I had technically kicked off the ‘Running for Reachout’ project the previous December and it was slowly dying on its arse. I had no idea if I could run a marathon, never mind 20 of them.  I knew nobody in the running community, had never competed in anything before, and had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that marathon season didn’t start until April and I needed to do SOMETHING. I vaguely remember showing up in a cotton t-shirt, 3/4 length shorts, and a woolen beanie, looking like a complete tool. After finishing in 2 hours and 9 minutes, I harassed a random bystander into taking my picture at the finish-line, holding up the participants’ t-shirt, and called it a day. Like I said, a complete tool.  So 18 months onward, the half-marathon in Dublin would be a nice way to bring the project full-circle. With the benefit of those months of added experience, and some excellent Dublin bands rocking out at the water stops, I managed to cut 35 minutes off the Bohermeen time, coming in at 1 hour, 33 minutes and 43 seconds.


Going Forward:

Going forward, I have some slightly different goals for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, I just got back from finishing my Adventure Journey project for a President’s award programme that I’m doing. That project eventually became an 80km monster of a hike, which involved summiting 24 peaks over four insane days; THAT will be getting a post all to itself.

A couple more assorted goals for the year, just so you guys can keep me honest – I want to go for my bronze award in the Marathon Club of Ireland, which is presented on completion of 25 marathons/ultramarathons. Currently, I’m on 20, so you do the math! In terms of aiming for time improvements, I still have to find a 5k, which I’ll be aiming to finish in under 20 minutes. Also, I’m going to have another go at the Eddie Murphy Double-Marathon in November, which I never technically finished the last time.

When all this is done, I’ll be going back to the drawing board, and concentrating on reducing my one-mile time. While I do have an ultimate goal in mind…

ultimate goal… the first step is taking a minute off my one-mile time (As I said, that’s currently 5.29) Can it be done? I haven’t a clue. But it’s going to be fun trying.

Dedicated to Kate Fitzgerald – 26th June 1986 – 23rd August 2011.

Running in the Kingdom

This is the 32nd post I’ve uploaded since I started this blog. Over the last few months, some of the posts have been really difficult to write. When the other guys are chugging the post-marathon Gatorades and relaxing in their ice-baths, you’ll find me frantically trying to throw together a race-report and maybe even organise a fundraising event in time for the next race.  In spite of a ton of work, I’m pretty sure I didn’t properly convey the experience of running the 100-miler in Connemara or even the Madventure or the 3-in-3, but today … no sweat! This week, the pictures are going to do the talking, and I’m just going to kick back, and maybe pop my head up from time to time to throw in a few half-assed observations and some lame picture-based humour. This week’s post is quite literally a walk in the park. It’s all about a race in the one of the most spectacular corners of  the country, a place called Dingle in Co. Kerry, and if this doesn’t make you want to run a marathon in Ireland, nothing will.

It seems that whenever I go to Kerry, it’s exclusively for crazy purposes. For me, getting there requires a five-hour drive and my last visit was nearly a year ago, to climb Carauntoohill (Ireland’s tallest mountain).  Co-incidentally, this was on the same weekend as the Dingle Food & Wine Festival. Having lost my wallet on the way down the mountain, I spent most of the festival wandering around Dingle while guzzling nutella straight from the jar with a spoon.

Cos I’m classy!

Fast-forward to this year and despite the travel requirements, a huge international crowd descended on Dingle for last Saturday’s marathon. Although I haven’t been able to find official reports, I’ve been told that somewhere around 2,300 people lined out for the half, full and ultra-marathon events (The 50-mile ultra alone attracted 60 hardy competitors)  All of which made for a festive atmosphere at the start-line.

Dingle is what my Drogheda club-mate Gerard Fay calls a “real” marathon – lots of elevation (gaining roughly 1500 feet), unbelievable scenery and a great atmosphere. It takes place right at the edge of the peninsula, and the course passes bays, historic sites, famine cottages and goes up plenty of hills!

I had to run backways up a hill to get this shot … but totally worth it.

I do have one good story though; about 15 miles into the race, I met up with a runner from Cork named Barry who was running his first marathon. (Doesn’t anybody just do a nice easy course for their first marathon anymore?!) Barry was running in aid of a cancer charity and had set a goal for himself of finishing in under 4hrs30min while his friend had set a goal of 5 hours. As I hadn’t any particular plan in mind other than finishing, I decided to try and pace them. By Mile 20, it was just myself and Barry, at which point the course took a rather arbitrary turn, requiring runners to hang a left down the Emlagh East Road towards Gallarus, before reaching a traffic cone, turning around and coming back up the way we came, and continuing on. This little head-trip is immediately followed by the monster hill that everyone was telling each other about before the race (about 320 feet of a climb), followed in turn by a mile-long straight section that appears to stretch out forever, on the way back into Dingle. Barry was in a great deal of pain with cramping but managed to put in a massive effort. By the end, he was moving really well and we both ended up sprinting into Dingle, crossing the line at the same time and beating his target by about a minute. His friend crossed the line shortly afterwards, beating his own target by about twenty minutes. It was a really extraordinary display of willpower on Barry’s part and a fantastic result, especially considering it was his first marathon. For my own part, I’ve rarely gotten as much as satisfaction from a race, and was very happy to help out. Roll on Sligo!

FINAL TIME: 4:29:26

Bohermeen and Taming the Carb Craving Monster

I’ve been ridiculously bad at updating this blog lately. The dearth of posts over the last month has mainly been down to lack of free time to sit down and write; I’ve been working hard at training and on lots of new developments in the magical realm of online social media – ‘Running for ReachOut’ now has a facebook page, a twitter page and, as of this morning, a flickr profile (still figuring out how to use that one…). Also, there are a bunch of cool fundraising events taking place over the next couple of weeks and I’ll be sending out more information on them through the facebook page very soon, as well as getting this blog up to speed!

More importantly, the first race finally happened! Specifically, it happened in Bohermeen at the Meath Spring Half-Marathon last Sunday. It wasn’t without its mini-dramas though. My jogging headphones decided to stop working that morning, leaving me in a slight dilemma since I never run without music. Ever. The only alternatives I had available to me were a huge set of circumaural headphones that would fall apart from the sweat, not to mention they would probably look more than a little silly.

Something like that.

Let the panicking begin. The race was starting at midday out in Meath; was it too much to ask to find an open music store at 10am on a Sunday?

I couldn’t find anywhere in Drogheda that was open, Scotch Hall let me down badly! Added to that, I was delayed for ages on the Slane Road, large tracts of which were closed off for reconstruction over the weekend. I was almost resolved to doing the unthinkable (running 13 miles without the choons!) but then in stepped Patricia from the Tesco in the Navan Shopping Centre at the last minute with a grand wee pair of wrap around ear buds for a handy €9.99, instantly cementing my affection for all things Navan-related.


Almost all things.

It was a gorgeous day for the most part. The course took in two laps of a 6.55 mile block, starting on the Newline and running left hand through Ongenstown towards the Navan Athboy road,cleft on the Boyerstown road and back to the Bohermeen Community Centre, with a couple of crossings over the dual-carriageway and some tough hills in between. I’d gotten a bit of slagging for showing up in a beanie-hat and long-sleeved jersey, but barely an hour in, it started to bucket down hailstones. Ollie:1, Nature:0! My ankles were a bit sore after the end of the first lap and legs were really heavy by the two-hour mark. By the end, the sweat was bucketing out from under my beanie-hat and I was thinking of nothing only the goodie-bag waiting in the car with the crisps and the strawberry protein shake. The goodie-bag also contained a free pen from Chris Curtis Kitchens & Wardrobes – a superb consolation prize if ever there was one.

I wasn’t too sore afterwards but I had crazy carb-cravings for days afterwards. Within about half an hour of finishing, I’d torn through a protein shake, a sportsfuel bar, several tubs of fruit smoothies and soup, a couple of bread rolls and some biscuits. And so it went on for days. For the last four days, I’ve eaten and slept roughly twice as much as normal, and I’m just beginning to feel like my old self now! Given the amount of runs in the near future, my only goals were to avoid injury and to finish the event without taking any walking breaks, which except for two brief water-stops, I managed. The next three races are scheduled for Galway next Saturday (March 10th), Connemara (April 1st) and the Clare Madventure Marathon on April 15th (26 odd miles of running on the open hillsides of Ballycuggran … job!) One thing’s for sure, I’ll never be short of a few spare t-shirts this year. Final finishing time: 2hours, 9 minutes, 34 seconds. Roll on Saturday!

The Wake Up Call (Part 2)

The first post of the new year started with the (mostly) balanced and levelheaded story of how I started training for this series of marathons; what sort of shape I was in at the beginning, the first few sessions with the running club in Drogheda before closing off with the low-down on the hill training which has left my knees feeling like they’ve been attacked with hammers. And that’s when things got downright stupid…

My home is at Drumin (Dunleer). The route, highlighted above in purple, is 5.2 km long or 3.23 miles. The length of a marathon is 26.22 miles (26 miles and 385 miles). So, to simulate a marathon-length run, one would need to complete 8.11 laps of the above block. The “thinking” behind actually doing this was firstly to have a base-time set in my mind as a foundation to improve upon and secondly to help to remove the fear that the entire undertaking might not be physically possible. After finishing up at work, I came home, changed into my running gear and started running at half six. It took me over five hours and was quite an interesting physical experience. At least partially because it was dark, because I was armed with nothing but an iPod, a reflective jacket and a bottle of Ballygowan’s finest, and also because I was wearing these runners at the time.

Pictured Above: A Bad Idea


The first two laps of ‘the circuit’ were easy enough, but by the third I started to feel a niggling-ache in my heels, a kind of numbness that started to slowly spread from the soles of my feet upwards. I still do not consider myself to be very fit yet, but I do have a high pain tolerance, which has been  useful. Overall, the first four laps passed relatively smoothly – a square half hour for each, for a total of 2 hours. Then I “hit the wall” in the fifth lap. In my head, that one lap seemed to take as long as the previous four put together. However, when I had finished it, I knew for certain that I would be able to  be finish the whole 26.22 mile thing.  One thing that I discovered about “hitting the wall” is that I would not  simply be able to ‘will’ myself through it; neither will nor determination  were part of the equation. When my body said I had to walk, I walked. Of course, there were however,  exceptions to that rule

When this pops up on your iPod, you don't walk, you RUN SUCKA!!!

I would describe the main sensation not as ‘pain’ or ‘gym-burn’ but as heaviness and as a bizarre sense of losing the feeling of having joints. In the last few laps, it became impossible to sustain a toe-to-heel running action for any amount of time as my calves simply could not take it. By the end, I had no sense of actually having knees or ankles, but felt as though I was trying to move two heavy, joint-less logs that had somehow become attached to my torso where my legs used to be. The stiffness was also bad enough that it prevented me from taking long strides, so I had to shuffle quite a bit as well. Having said that, (and maybe it was down to the hill training we had been doing at the club), I was pretty pleased with the performance on the hills; I was able to muster together a sprint up the hills on all eight laps.

In the latter stages, the only thing that made my body not want to walk was to constantly try to remind myself that walking would not actually do anything to ease the stiffness and would probably make it worse. Whenever I could get into a good stretch of running I could forget about the pain but if I slowed down to walk or even stopped, it would become sharper. This strategy worked for the most part but eventually I was cutting deals with myself to finish out the run (“Give me a run as far as that next telephone post and you can walk for the next 100 meters,” stuff like that).

In the end, I finished just after 11.30pm with a time of 5 hrs, 10 minutes & 20 seconds.

Pictured Above: Suffering for your amusement/sponsorship dollar...


Mentally, it was a completely bizarre experience. Among other things, I saw three shooting stars and nearly tripped over a black cat bolting out of a driveway, which was either the universe messing with me or perhaps an exhaustion-induced hallucination.

Thankfully, my legs were completely back to normal in about three days. Since then, I’ve found a good physio, changed the running gear and started a proper, steady training-plan which should dovetail nicely with the Connemarathon in April. The trio of Ballyhoura, Limerick and Belfast at the start of May are obviously going to be much more problematic. At least now, however, I have something concrete to aim at and I know that they’re well within the boundaries of what I can physically take. As long as I can still move, I will finish them. Having said that, Paula Radcliffe’s record is probably still safe for now…

The Wake Up Call (Part 1)

The exact moment I knew this challenge was going to be ‘a bit tricky’ was when I got home on the 16th of December and my heels stopped working. You can imagine my surprise when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to walk up (or down) the stairs for the next three days. I won’t  bore you with the details just yet; suffice to say that in a grand show of foolhardiness, I decided to prove to the folks that called me crazy a few weeks earlier  that they were right! But more on that later. Since setting up the page, €85 has been raised over the last few weeks for which is an encouraging start. Also, since my last post, I have registered for a number of these marathons – some of them are pretty normal, run-of-the-mill events. Some of them, on the other hand, are slightly different.

The Mooathon. Only in Donegal.

Just on the off chance that the ‘milking stations’ alone might not be enough to power me over the finish line, I decided it might be a good idea to do some training. Not that I was completely out of shape mind you, obviously on the outside I still looked fantastic – however, after my  final year at  DCU, my innards had steadily recomposed themselves into something mostly made up of pizza, chocolate and Folgers premium blend. Shockingly, therefore, it turned out that some people thought that I might not have been entire serious about this whole running business. So, as part of an effort to prove that this whole thing is neither a fantasy, a misunderstanding or some form  of elaborate practical joke, (or precursor to being elected in a Boris-esque manner), I thought I should write about some of the preparations that I have been doing over the last few months.

I’ve been training with the Drogheda and District Athletic Club since the 22nd of October. For the first couple of days, stretching into the first couple of weeks, I was sweating my ass off finishing the most basic sessions. Even on days where I was only doing ‘slow training’, (where basically you run continuous laps at a steady pace for as long as possible), I was being overtaken by kids half my age.

Some manner of cheating may have been taking place…

Part of the reason for this is, of course, that I am still awful at pacing myself. Whether running one mile or twenty, I always start out trying to keep up with the guy who can do a 3 hour marathon and then practically collapse by the end of the run. Thankfully, like most teething problems , this is starting to pass. After a while, we moved onto doing ‘miles’, in which you run a mile at a moderate pace, stop for a quick breather, and repeat the process for about 40 minutes. More recently, as the weather started turning nasty (rendering the grass-track temporarily unusable) we started doing hill training.

Hill training, for those of you who have not  tried it, is truly evil. For us, it consists of a 2km run from the Meadow View pitches at Hazel Lane to the bottom of Mary Street across the way from Drogheda’s Scotch Hall shopping centre.  Having made it that far, you are then expected to  do a 350 metre dash up Mary Street, which is on a sharp hill, and then a slow jog/walk back down to the bottom. This is repeated 12 times, a total of 8400 metres. At that point, the return  2km run back to Meadow View pitches and the safety of our cars begins.  A grand  total distance  of 12.4 km or 7.71 miles, come rain or shine. The entire route looks like this:

So far so reasonable. Two nights a week formal training and short sessions around the roads at home to fill in the gaps. By the middle of December, I was running about 30 to 40 miles a week which according to various reputable sources (including that classic tome “Marathon Training for Dummies”) is the minimum distance you need to cover in order to eventually finish a marathon without walking 
 or dying. Then December 16th came along, and I decided to do something very stupid indeed.

To be continued next week – same Battime, same Batchannel….

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