I’m just back from a shopping trip with new runners and leggings. Everyone knows if you Continue reading
I love my body. Not in a vain, narcissistic way – but with amazement at the body’s ability to cope with everything life throws at it, and just keep on giving. This moment of introspection doesn’t follow any mad achievement or record-breaking feat. It follows a trip to the physio and the news that I’ve strained my Continue reading
My antlers twitched and I kicked up a bunch of golden leaves, as I strolled across Marlay Park this morning for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…
It’s a special day. A friend of mine has been training hard for the 1K. It’s been a while since they did anything like this, and the amount of effort and perseverance they’ve put in for today’s one kilometre Santa Saunter, far outshines the amount of training I’ve been doing for my 5k. That brings with it two inescapable facts – I’m very proud of my friend for being here, and I’m not so sure about my own running ability later in the day!
Bumping into the organisers we share grins and congratulations as hundreds of people pour into the park, which is rapidly filling up with reindeer cladded men, women and children of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities. At this point we’ve just heard that there are over a thousand registrations. This is one of the things I love about fun runs – everyone feels welcome, and you get lots of runners, trotters and walkers who might not usually turn out for a run in the park. I’m always saying to just get out there and run; you don’t have to be an athlete to start – get active and the fitness follows. But days like this are such a wonderful encouragement for getting started. The cause is pretty special too, and one close to my heart. The RNLI save so many lives as their brave volunteer crews negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.
I’m actually a bit nervous, because I’ve been asked to handle the warm-up for the first race and I haven’t done that before – not in public. I helped our teams warm up on the set of Setanta TV’s ‘Get Off The Couch’ – and I’ve been part of plenty of warm-ups with my own running club, LeCheile AC but I’m suddenly feel out of my comfort zone.
As I line up with my Megaphone on the grass in front of the start line, I take stock. I’m surrounded by a ‘sea’ of red-shirted reindeer – and I’m wearing furry ears and a pair of antlers. I stand for a moment looking at the front row of tiny runners, standing knee high to their parents and looking back expectantly. I glance nervously sideways at my trusty sidekick, the 6ft tall RNLI Reindeer ‘Rookie’ – and finding my voice I ask my reindeer runners to lift their left arm and wave to Santa. We raise our knees and ‘step in and out of Santa’s Sleigh’, we roll our shoulders – because it’s Santa’s favourite after carrying his magic sack with all those presents, we see how well Rookie can balance on one leg… and finish running on the spot in the ‘Santa Stampede’ before wrapping up with a round of applause for Rookie who now knows which side is right and left.
Walking over to my friends who are cracking up laughing, I sigh with relief thankful my 5 minutes of fame are over, when Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI dashes over to ask me to do it all again for the next race. Erm – judging from the comments later it appears I may have inadvertently changed warm-up tradition forever for the annual RNLI Reindeer Run and Santa Saunter…..
*Disclaimer No.1 – sorry Santa if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
*Disclaimer No.2 – sorry Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan if I slightly misrepresented your warm-up exercises
I moaned about the wind, the rain, the dark nights… the wind, the rain, the dark nights… and always the cold – but today in bright evening sunshine, running into a sunset, it all paid off. Thanks so much to all the trainers and volunteers at Le Cheile Athletics Club in Leixlip, especially Irish Ultra Runner, John O’Regan, who is so generous with his knowledge and time – and Sharon Ashmore (above), who quite literally ‘dragged me off the couch’ on occasion. I don’t find running easy, but after 10 weeks training, two nights a week, I finally made it from Couch to 5k and today I ran the distance without stopping, and even managed a wee sprint at the end. So the runnin’n’walkin thing is over – I’m a runner now! I’ve no excuses left, and the mental block that stops me running after 4 minutes has finally been lifted. I’ll be back at that start-line on Saturday for the Leixlip 5k, and now I know I can do it…
I joined Le Cheile’s Couch to 5k programme to get in shape for Run Kildare which is hurtling towards us on May 12th. I ran and walked the Run Kildare 10k last year and I wanted to return and do a better job in 2013. Ironically, the Television Programme I’m working with ‘Get Off The Couch’ has scheduled filming that weekend in Kerry. We’ll be bringing the team down to Carrauntoohil to climb with renowned adventurer Pat Falvey, and camp out at his Mountain Lodge. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to share this beautiful mountain with my GOTC buddies who have now all become firm friends as well as colleagues. However it does mean I’ll be skipping a super weekend of running – or shall I say postponing it until next year, when hopefully I’ll be fitter and faster…
Along with a choice of distances to try in Run Kildare on May 12th – you can also have a go at the wonderful ‘Darkness Into Light’ 5k for Pieta House at 4am in the morning on May 11th – in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and right around the country. It’s a beautiful, inspiring walk/run, which begins in the dark hours of the morning and runs into the dawn and the brightness of a new day, in support of suicide awareness and prevention. I’ve done it for the last few years with good friends and I’ll miss being there this year. But I’ll be thinking of you all from the summit of Carrauntoohil and sending love and hugz… 🙂
I wish they weren’t so nude down on the Royal Canal…. I cycle along the muddy track most days on my way in and out from Blanchardstown to work in town – it’s a good length of a cycle (around 15k). It irons out the kinks, especially after a weekend spent hiking or running. But they’re all stripped bare and it’s beginning to get to me. Holly’s different and Ivy too, in fairness… but then they’re always game and ready to show off their best colours all year around. But it’s more than halfway through April and you’d think the rest of the trees and shrubs would be wearing leaves by now! Never mind, the Met today said the winter was gone and the worst of the cold is over for 2013, so pretty soon, those small buds that started appearing today, will burst into a flood of life and I’ll have a ‘greeny’ canal back again. Like the trees, flooding with energy and ready to burst into life – I’m feeling strong and energetic for the first time since my surgery in January. It’s been a tough start to this year, but like the forecaster said today about the weather – I feel I’m over the worst.
This weekend was amazing. All those horrid nights out running in the cold and dark with my ‘Couch-to-5k’ buddies at Le Chéile Athletics Club in Leixlip, finally paid off. I’d signed up weeks ago for the Spar Great Ireland Run in the Phoenix Park here in Dublin, and although I was nowhere near ready to run 10k I was happy to have a bash and walk and jog the distance. My plan was to walk 1 min and run 4 the whole way round. That’s what I did and I came back in just over 1 hour and 18 minutes – which was ten minutes faster than my best time for a 10k last year. So I’ve definitely bounced back and now I can start to build on my new fitness. The running techniques I’ve been getting at Le Chéile really helped get me around the course, as did the brilliant coaching session with Catherina McKiernan that I was fortunate to have the benefit of, while filming a couple of weeks ago with my ‘Get Off The Couch’ TV project. You can’t get fit without some hard work, but technique really goes a long way to getting there safely and efficiently. Le Chéile’s Sharon Ashmore has been nagging me for weeks to run the club’s 5k on May 4th – I suppose I really don’t have any excuse now. It would be great if you joined us – you can register on Facebook or on this link: http://www.lecheile5k.milanet.biz/
The 10k wasn’t the only burst of activity for the weekend. On Saturday I got some pre-race preparation in, with a 5.5hr hike up Lugnaquilla for Concern. ‘Lug’ as it’s affectionately or sometimes painfully referred to, can be a bit of a slog. Saturday was no exception. A coachload of climbers poured out at Fenton’s pub in bright sunshine at 10am – and within a couple of hours, we were knee-deep in snow, and slogging our way up the mountain against an increasingly violent headwind, freezing cold, driving rain and almost zero visibility. The leaders turned us all back down the mountain within shouting distance of the summit – deeply frustrating, but the right decision – in light of the dreadful and worsening conditions. It was an excellent exercise for seeing how well or how badly our equipment, clothing and boots all worked – and a reminder that you must always be prepared in the mountains.
Well that’s an Irish spring for you – but the weather’s definitely turned the corner. A couple of weeks ago, my TV gang and I were out on the Liffey rafting and kayaking with Irish kayaking legend Kipper Maguire and rafting.ie which is based at an old mill in Palmerstown. The sun was beaming down and you just felt that powerhouse of energy that comes from having the sun on your face in the great outdoors. We were out on the river from 7am to sundown, and I ended up in that well known and gorgous watering hole The Anglers’ Rest – the perfect end to a perfect day and one which I’ll be writing about in detail for Outsider Magazine later this Summer. I’ll be taking a look at the river from the Strawberry Beds right down to the Jeannie Johnson at the IFCS where City Kayaks are based. I’ll be finding out what adventures are going on there, right under our feet – in particular, right under O’Connell Bridge.
So welcome Spring, welcome Summer, and welcome to a whole new year of adventure. 🙂
I had a pretty amazing Paddy’s Day weekend. Thanks to the amazing hospitality of mountaineer Tony Nation and the incredible cooking skills of his wife Mary…. I climbed Carrauntoohil in snow on Saturday, and I climbed the Coumshingaun Horseshoe in Waterford the following day – I ate loads of homebaked cakes and bread – with cream – and sank a couple of glasses of red wine… but even the scales gave me a break and I only registered a half a pound increase for all my indulgence.
Then tonight the good times continued at Le Cheile AC in Leixlip.
We are just about half way through their ‘Couch to 5k’ programme and they told us during our warm-up tonight that we’d be running for a full 20 mins without walking. My jaw dropped and to be honest, I wondered if anyone would notice if I grabbed my keys and slipped out the back door! I’d run 20 mins with them last week, but that was running 5 min intervals with a 2 minute break in-between; and I’d thought that was tough!
Setting off into the cold, dark, night, I had a face like a glum trout…. but I concentrated on picking my own SLOW pace and keeping my breathing even. I ended up sort of jogging between two groups, out on my own, but still a part of the gang. I could feel the group ahead pulling me forward and the group behind pushing me on – like I was on an invisible cord.
I realised that if I kept thinking I couldn’t do it, I’d have a mini panic attack and end up walking off. So I started telling myself that of course I could. I told myself I was enjoying it, and matched the words to my pace as I ran slowly along the dark tarmac, occasionally glancing up to see the moon and stars above. At first the moon was ahead but after a while it fell behind and I grinned into the frosty night, thinking I’d just outrun a moonbeam. Do you know, after a while, I really began to believe it. I’m genuinely unsure whether the running became easier, or whether I just convinced myself that it had. All I know is that when the 20mins were up – I didn’t want to stop – and when I saw the lights of the clubhouse up ahead in the distance, I just kept on running – all the way home – on a cloud.
It’s all in the head isn’t it? I said ‘I can’ – and I did. 🙂
Recently I’ve got quite narky with Nike, because of their lack of accommodation for lady boobs! I’m a size 14 and resent having to battle my way into an ‘XTRA LARGE’ running vest. I mean what sort of message is that sending out, we’re ‘over-sized’ if we’ve got boobs?
Despite that, there’s no disputing the technical buzz of buying Nike gear though, I’ve got leggings that look like something out of a sci-fi movie, and when I get over the embarrassment of wearing them in public, I’ve got to admit they are incredibly warm and super to run or cycle in, during these dark evenings.
My latest gear indulgence is a bargain-buy at the new Nike discount store in Blanchardstown. These narrow soled track shoes. I’ve read all the reviews about footwear moving away from the big high-gel soles, and I’m willing to give these a go. Since I’ve started running in the past year or two I’ve always gone for the ‘big gel’ option, and with my ‘dodgy’ knees, I’m cautious to change what works – so I’ll let you know how I get on with these. So far so good though, I’ve been wearing them around the house and cycling, and tonight I ran with them at my Le Cheile ‘Couch to 5k’ session and felt grand afterwards.
Tonight’s session was a step-up by the way. I ended up miles outside my comfort zone (even though we only covered 5k). We’ve been running intervals of 1.5 mins for the past few nights, but tonight we changed that up to ‘3mins on and 1.5 mins off’. We also split up into two groups. One was running alternate splits of 3-mins and 1.5 mins with a 2 min recovery – the other was keeping it to 3-min only split with 90 seconds recovery.
Why do I do this to myself? I went off with the tougher group. I was too slow to keep up, and too stubborn to stop – so I ended up running my own personal little Everest between the groups. I didn’t really feel alone though, the trainers are great and kept a watchful eye, and I still felt the company of running with a group, even though I ended up in an awkward little trot that fell in between the two. The thing is, I found a rhythm and I found a way to run and breathe, and really that’s what it’s all about. Do what you can do, and then do a little bit more. I ended up delighted with my run tonight, although I found it much tougher than the earlier sessions. I’m also happy in the knowledge that although I’m huffing and puffing in the cold, dark, night air now… by the end of the summer, I’ll be flying down the beach with toned legs, a sun-tan, and the speed and grace of a gazelle…
Well….. that’s the plan! 😉