End of the Season

I met Emily about a month ago at a kid’s birthday party.  That’s where we, parents, meet up these days… or during the coffee shop for morning fix. She asked if I would be okay to type an end of season blog having written my first one at the start of the season around February/March.

To be honest I’ve been trying to find the time since and now, well here goes…


Since February I’ve been training for the Castle Series first sprint triathlon in Gort, Co. Galway. Whoever is familiar with this, knows it is a series of triathlons based in castle grounds across Ireland, England and France. I couldn’t have picked better location! I highly recommend it and will be signing up again for the longer distance events in 2018. It wasn’t the best of weather in early May. The water was so cooold!! I was dreading the swim, and I wasn’t the only one. Plenty of lost souls threading water on the start line had that familiar ‘I am sh*tting it’ look, including yours truly. New wet suit, new goggles, new thoughts, will I manage the transitions?, will my legs feel like concrete blocks after the bike?  Then ‘BANG!’ the gun fired and we were on, heads down in the murky water, the first experience of being swam over, kicked left, right and centre.  Once you’ve come to terms with the initial shock, the next sensation is the lack of visibility, not helped by my normal eyesight running a close second to Mr. Magoo. The only saving grace was the ginormous orange inflatable course buoys. The first turn arrived and I realised my breathing had settled, my stroke lengthened and I kicked for the shore with all my might.

Out of the water, wet suit half down (careful!), run to T1, wet suit off, now hopping on one leg, helmet on, race belt on, bike shoes on, bike off the rack and I’m running to the start in 3 inches of the finest muck Ireland has to offer (see pic 1). Then back to earth, I couldn’t clip my shoes in and it was time for some foot stamping and cursing. Once I’m finally going on the bike it felt amazing. 21km passed so quickly, a quick energy gel in for that extra sugar kick and I’m cruising. T2, bugger, fell off the bike, the sweet kiss of concrete on my knee, there are children present, don’t swear. Bike racked, trainers on and now for a run off-road around the castle grounds for 4km. Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good and I flew through the finish line at 1h 21min.  My first tri (new lingo!) medal, wow, I was hooked.


Pic 1: Muddy...

Pic 1: Muddy…


Since then I’ve completed a sprint tri in Kilrush, Ennis, the Hell of the West in Kilkee (full Olympic distance, I did the 41km bike and 10km hill run) and the Castleconnell sprint tri.  In meantime I’ve also done the Limerick half marathon, Tough Mudder (full 11 miles with obstacles along the way for good measure) and the Newport bike sportive 60km. Along with my road bike group we’ve completed two long rides around the lake in Killaloe. The first was in June with Group 2, averaging 22kph and more recently in September with Group 1, averaging 28kph, 8 lads and little ol’ me, the only woman!  Wonderwoman, imagine the theme tune, haha. And I did my second Dublin marathon which sucked! Running did not come easily to me this year, but another one under my belt is ok for now.



Pic 2: Muddier…


Basically, my Summer consisted of 5-6 training days a week. Swimming in the lake or pool 3 times a week. Not running much, just twice a week while my son had his athletics but it felt like I was cycling constantly. Every Wednesday, evening sessions, 500m swim and stationary bike intervals afterwards, hill repeats.

Every Sunday morning session with the lads, 70-80-90km routes with a restorative coffee afterwards.



Pic 3: Only woman of the bunch!


I do rowing and bike turbo sessions at home, often at 6am, before heading off to work or else at 9pm in the evening before heading to bed.

My home also seems to have turned into a mini gym. Bikes and a turbo trainer, Concept2 erg, chin-up bar, 3 sport bags always ready, one swim bag (indoor), one swim bag (wetsuits), and yet another packed specifically for each race. It’s funny but as I look around me it’s still the same now!!


Looking back you can get a bit rose-tinted but it wasn’t easy at all. In the middle of all the mayhem I started a new job in June, but I had to keep my old job as well, such is the modern world. So it was 2 jobs, an active 5 year old who was on ‘his’ summer holidays, entertaining, training, cooking, shopping, the lot. Don’t ask me how I did it by myself, I truly don’t know. I had my ups and downs, more than my fair share of complete meltdowns and plenty of sleepless nights.

But despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I learned to be organized like the CEO of multinational. Dinners were prepared in advance and child care always had to be planned well in advance based on my training schedule. Although food was quick I tried not to let that lower the standard of nutrition. I’m also a firm believer in organic produce and most meals consisted of meat (lamb and sirloin steak mostly), fish, tuna and lots of veg, particularly sweet potatoes and avocados. I found I was snacking constantly on nuts, dried fruit, crackers, quark (I had to look it up too), nut butters (yum!). Now when I think back, I often ended up having a second dinner around 10pm at night. It actually felt like I was eating constantly.

Despite all this, motivation for me was never an issue. Once I’d signed up for a race, that kept me going. The high I felt was amazing.  Meeting like minded people at the events or even while out training. People for whom this lifestyle is our normal, is a tremendous feeling.


What’s for the future? Well, next year I plan on doing my first half Ironman, and all going well the year after my first full one. In order to prepare for the step up in class I am planning on hiring a coach to help me to train more smartly and effectively.

I am also hoping Santa will be kind and I’ll find a new carbon-fibre bike under the tree this year (no I’m not demanding at all!).

By the way, I can’t let the opportunity go by without mentioning how expensive it is to exercise in Ireland?

Membership fees, race fees, decent gear… thousands upon thousands of euro… but hey, who needs high heels anyway?!?!


Monika 🙂

Reformer Pilates – Test Beds!

img_2518A new reformer Pilates studio opened up in our tiny village in Killaloe, County Clare. And so three of the intrepid Bitchmittens bloggers decided we needed to get our fabulous arses over asap to give it a go. Which is why we found ourselves gathering at 6.30am for a pre-work introductory session of reformer Pilates with Roisin, who also happens to be a fully qualified physiotherapist. Swit swoo.

‘Clinical Reformer Pilates’ (as opposed to just regular Pilates) had been suggested to me by my spinal specialist, and my sports physio. I hurt my back about six months ago, and it’s just not getting better. So what is it? Well, ‘Clinical Pilates’ is delivered by a trained physiotherapist, who will have a detailed understanding of injury, recovery, treatment and movement. Reformer Pilates, is delivered via machines (rather bloody expensive machines, being several thousand a pop). But it’s a very safe, stable and effective way to rebuild strength after back injury, so I was delighted to have one open on my doorstep, and with the physio layer to boot.

Roisin’s studio has three such machines so the classes are, by nature of the numbers, all ‘personal training’. Every one gets individual attention. This was great for us though, because even though we’ve mastered a few different sports, we were all three of us Pilates virgins.

img_2515Personally, I was just keen to lie down again, it being 6.30am and all. For the first few minutes she talked us through how the machines work (I keep calling them beds!!). Basically there’s a sliding platform, a foot bar, and handles (that have foot handles or hand-handles) and we started out with really simple exercises lying on the beds. The resistance is provided by coiled metal springs, which you can adjust based on your requirements. Ruth of course went straight for hardcore toughness, which Rhona and I were content to take it a little easier 🙂

Over the course of an hour, we worked through arms, core, legs, (inner and outer) as well as a nice set of stretches and twists at the end. It was really calm and gentle, exactly what I needed at 6.30am, unlike the class Ruth dragged me to a few weeks ago which had me doing burpees five minutes after I got out of bed. Great class, but just TOO GODDAMN EARLY.

I loved this class because Roisin has a really calm demeanour, and explains everything brilliantly. For a morning class the music was just right, the room was lovely and the tempo of effort perfect. The next day I was pleasantly stiff, but unlike the first time I tried TRX, I didn’t have crippling DOMs (Delayed onset muscle soreness) for a week after.  I can clearly see how the moves at greater resistance would be pretty intense, even though your not lepping around all that much. (But she did say something about a jumpboard, which was another attachment…) Hmmm.

All three of us found this class excellent. Ruth and Rhona I think found it a little too easy in patches, but then they are both extraordinarily strong in the leg. We paid €22 per person, which is good value for what amounts to personal training with a qualified physio on super expensive equipment. My back has felt pretty damn good all week, and I’m relieved that I can start my road back to more regular exercise in such a fun way. Test Beds, aka reformer Pilates get an A+ from me. There are reformer Pilates studios dotting up all over the country, as it is becoming quite a craze! Just remember, if you’re carrying injury, you might be better off looking for a studio that is physio led, or at least get some advice from a physio before you begin.


Bitchmittens Emily

PS – Here’s Roisin’s page if you’re interested in checking it out:



While we occasionally get asked to review places, products and services, and we love the occasional freebie – this wasn’t one of those times, it’s an honest to goodness unsolicited review 🙂



Swimming: what I’ve learned so far

A few weeks ago I injured my knee. Not in a terrible, life altering way; but in a sort of way that got me thinking about other forms of exercise. I couldn’t run, rowing is a bit difficult for everyday and I couldn’t just do cycling (’cause that shit hurts my bum!) so I decided to give swimming a go. It was something I loved to do as a kid. I was called a water baby from the age of 2. I just loved being in it. A pool, the sea, a puddle, the bath… you name it and I tried to swim in it.


But I had never really swam for fitness purposes. It’s always been about splashing, dunking, diving, bombing and lying at the bottom of the pool/ocean. So when it came to knowing what to do I was a little stumped. But 1 month in here’s what I’ve learned…


1: Like all other sports, proper gear is essential

Being a former leisurely swimmer, you know whilst on my holibobs and such, all my swim gear was frilly bikinis and fifties style skirted swimsuits! Gorgeous for a day of tanning oneself with a few minor dips in the pool to cool down but completely useless for actual rigorous work. I naively thought that I would not need Speedos. I was wrong. Having to fix myself every 5 mins was time consuming aaaaand having my boobs pushed up created ridiculous drag, those puppies needed to be pinned down! I also owned no goggles and after an hour of swimming you REALLY wished you owned some. Chlorine is a bitch and you sorta need to see where you’re going, especially with small kiddos not looking around. Tis best to dodge them!


2: Breathe as often as you want/can

Honestly, this one feels like it should be a no-brainer but so many people (myself included) do this! Holding your breath while swimming. Taking one maybe two gasps per length. WHY?!?!? You wouldn’t hold your breath doing any other sport! Imagine trying to run laps over and over again like that. BREATHE! (I’m looking at you Coriel). Swimming is an all body workout, constantly moving, pushing through water, heart rate raising. It’s proper cardio. You need that air. So take it! I always thought that I hadn’t mastered the special breathing needed for swimming, like there is some trick that I was missing. I would do a few laps and my chest would be tired. When I finally gave in and breathed every time my head was out of the water it all changed. I could swim for longer and I wasn’t getting worn out as quickly. There is no special secret, there is no trick.


3: Swimming is deceptively tiring

I think this surprised me the most. I am a sweaty person, particularly when I’m training. Perspiring all of the God damn place! And I used to associate sweating and red hot cheeks with how hard my workout was. Obviously, it’s really hard to perspire in water. So when I started swimming for training purposes I was concerned I wasn’t going to get a proper workout from it. I was constantly adding with something. Running and a swim, cycling and a swim, weights and a swim. Then one day I decided to swim the equivalent of 2k in the pool, (112 lengths). I was like this should be graaaaaaaaaand. I was so wrong. Ver wrong. By the end I was so tired I could even bring myself to sit in the sauna. Or to sit in the jacuzzi. I just wanted to lie down. I felt like I had ran for days but I was not sweaty and I was not hot; I was just tired and so weak. Swimming is no joke, no picnic.


4: It’s really fucking good for you

Coincidentally, TIME magazine had a whole thing about exercise in one of their latest issues (the one with Leo Varadkar on the cover I think). Aerobic exercises (such as swimming and running) seem to be best for our brain’s health. All due to having to pump more blood to the brain, our biggest user of oxygen (again peeps, breathe!) It helps increase “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” this protects AND repairs brain cells. Aerobic exercises also can help to lower the chances of memory loss and Alzheimer’s, even if the person has a parent with Alzheimer’s or if a person is carrying the gene for it. Such a good reason to get the budgie smugglers on!


5: Swimming is making me a more confident swimmer

Ok this one sounds stupid, but go with it. When I was a kid, our school organised swimming lessons for PE for like 3 years. We learned everything. And from starting to swim regularly again I’ve realised that these classes have massively benefited me. Until now I just assumed everyone could swim with ease. Not so… I’m watching women and men in their fifties learning how to swim. And I’m impressed, it must be so scary after all that time. It’s something that comes naturally to me, easily to me. It’s a skill everyone should have. And I think it’s easier to learn that shit when you’re young. So peeps with kids, get them in the pool and teach them to swim. And if you’re all grown up and can’t swim, learn, now. It’s so lovely and worth learning.  You never know when it’ll come in handy


Oh and speedos are not flattering.

Trapped in a sports bra

Last week was a hot one (like seven inches from the midday sun? Santana? No?). Folks were eating ice-cream, sunglasses were on, girls were sporting the latest summer looks down by the river as the lads showed their daring bravery by jumping from the bridge into the cool waters of the Shannon. My father was in a paddling pool. Poor fuckers stuck in offices were slowly but surely melting into puddles of figures and data. It was a glorious Irish summer!


Me, this was the week I joined our local gym.


Gyms are usually hot places. In a heatwave… Well!


After getting a good weight session in I was boiling. Dying. Puddles were forming wherever I stood. I was looking forward to jumping into the cool waters of the pool. As I began peeling of my gym gear, sweat rolling down my forehead, I noticed something. My bra was stuck, literally. The sweat had welded the fabric to me. I never thought I would be betrayed by my most supportive friend. My sports bra. A heavily structured piece that is secure most days. Today, was like it was made from No More Nails. This shit was not coming off. It got to my underarms and no further! So you can just imagine, beetroot red from the training, glistening with heatwave sweat, in my undies with my sports bra only half off. No one around to help a sister out. I started panicking. Was I going to have to just put it back on, walk out to the pool where husband no doubt was already bombing it down the slide to tell him that I am stuck and we need to go home? No I need to get in that pool just to feel human again. Do I just pretend it’s a sporty bikini top and just fuck it and go swimming? No, because the bastard thing has to come off at some point.


Having a fear of being trapped, in anything really, I started to breathe really quickly. I started to feel really claustrophobic and it was only getting hotter. And I couldn’t stop sweating! I was no longer able to get a good grip. I was going to die wearing this thing.


There was only one thing for it, I was going to have to hulk my way out of the bra.


Worried that a more delicate and elegant lady might walk in and spot me ripping my sports bra to pieces, I ran into the toilet cubicles. Great, not only am I trapped in my one clothing, but also in a teeny cubicle with the scent of pee. Sometimes kids forget to flush and that’s ok but it was not helping the situation.


Not convinced this was even going to work I decided that I would have to rip/loosen the elastic enough to push it down over my hips. I grabbed one of the shoulder straps and started pulling, hard. I could hear the stitching creaking under the pressure. I forced my shoulder up and out! Now for the next one, ok, squeeze! Sweat still pumping, breath getting more shallow. What if this doesn’t work and now I am just a woman with a one strapped sports bra! Squeeeeeeeze. Pull. At this point my arm starts to get sore and cramping from being forced into a position it is not used to. Ow, breathe, ow, pull. Once more. Is this was birth feels like??? BOTH SHOULDERS ARE FREE. Now, I just need to get it over my hips, my fine, child-bearing Nolan hips I got off my Daddy. Pushing the bra down, hearing the fibres stretch, feeling the fabric tear, praying it will be over soon. Shimmying, pulling, shimmying once more. Pop! Off it came!


I could have ran around the gym with this surge of freedom I felt! But since I was no longer wearing anything supportive that would have been foolish.


So on went the togs and into the pool I jumped, revelling in my sweet release…




Towards a Better Me: Part Five

A Little Stumble


Pain and me are not great friends, we aren’t even close acquaintances. I was just never any good coping with any small niggle. So much so it’s become a bit of a running joke among my family and friends. My Ma has stated numerous times that she wants to be nowhere near me if I ever go into labour. One of my colleague’s still skits me over having to get a plaster (or gauze as she claims) for a papercut. In my defence, it was quite a deep cut, wouldn’t stop bleeding and really really sore! So I was quite relived to be starting this week out pain free. My mood was definitely up heading into the Women’s Fitness Gym. I had arranged to have my personal training session on Monday after work, and I was looking forward to getting in and having Denise push me beyond my own expectations.


Off we went to the personal training centre in the second building and got stuck in. We did a number of the different exercises using a barbell with 7.5 kg on each side and one with 5kg on each side. As well as two 6kg dumbbells. And a 12kg kettlebell. I did some bench presses, overhead presses, deadlifts, lunges, and the others that I just can’t remember. It is like as soon as I come out I completely forget what I have done. It was tough but I pushed through and did all of my reps. Though I did struggle near the end of the sets. The last one was with the kettlebell I thought was the toughest. But I did it. I was on bit of a high afterwards. My God, the sweat coming out me was unreal. Drenched was definitely an understatement.


The following day I was only slightly sore in my shoulders and arms. I was feeling on top of the world. I felt like I could take on anything. It was also the first back at Yoga tonight and I was looking forward to going with one of my besties, D. The class was packed and as there was a lot of new people in the class, so it was mostly back to basics. But with the stiffness, I was glad of the slower pace. Though there were a few moments of strain and pain, on the whole, I really enjoyed it. Plus the banter in the car with D is always good.


I woke about 5am on Wednesday in absolute agony. My entire upper body was on fire. I couldn’t straighten my arms or even move them too much. Washing and dressing myself was pure torture. I was very glad that my commute is shared with Pierre, if I wasn’t I probably wouldn’t have made it out of the driveway. I would just be there sitting, in the car, crying my eyes out. And it didn’t get any easier when I got into work. I had to re-arrange my whole desk. Judi thought my constant complaints and noises were very funny. The further the day went on the more I dreaded having to go to boot camp that evening. If simply moving the mouse was painful, what the hell were burpies gonna be like! My mood was a stark contrast to the day before. I was so happy and bubbly yesterday. Raving at D about how good I felt. Now, I was trying my best not burst out crying from simply lifting my mug to drink my green tea (which to be honest I don’t really like, but have to have two a day!). I was not enjoying this. I had a nice chat with Bitchmitten’s Emily and that pepped me up a bit. But it wasn’t to last with the constant pain. Simply standing with my hand hanging was unbelievable sore. Pockets were my friend when I was walking. I decided that boot camp was not going to be feasible with me in this condition. Instead, I took a hot bath with an ass load of my homemade lavender epsom salts. Lying in the bath was the first time I was pain free, it was lovely. I’m not really a bath person. I much prefer showers. Normally I need to be do a crossword in a bath otherwise I’m just bored and am in and out in a couple minutes. My brain always seems to need some sort of stimulation. It’s a frikin’ pain. But I stayed for about 45 minutes. I sat down after I got out and let out a sigh of relief at being pain free. It was short lived. After ten minutes out of the bath I could feel my whole upper body stiffen up, and the pain came back just as much as before.


The following day again brought no relief. My mood was very poor. I felt like someone had turned the lights out on me. I was a poor reflection of the woman that was here two days previous. I was very upset. In the morning, trying to get out to work, I never even thought to bring my lunch or my snacks. By the time lunch had arrived, I was so down. I turned to my old habits of comfort eating. Now in saying that, I did not eat an entire mountain of chocolate. I didn’t even eat any chocolate. I ate nothing sweet (which actually amazed me.) I decided that I was gonna have a little cheat treat and go order my favourite lunch, Sizzling prawns. So yummy, but so not what the food plan says. They are the most amazing prawns ever. And they do actually come out sizzling in hot chilli oil with a nice fresh side salad and lovely crispy chips. While it didn’t take away the pain, it did do something to lift my mood.


Work went on with me moaning and groaning, poor Judi having to listen to me. When I got home, I was just so exhausted, so drained of energy. I could not face having to get in the car again in an hour and drive to the gym for a Pilates class. I couldn’t think of the pain I would be in. I was still so very sore. I was scared of the pain but I was also scared to go to the class and not be able to do it. Afraid to show myself up. I knew the Pilates would probably beneficial for my current state but the fear was tightening its hold upon me.


I could tell you that I overcame the fear and went and did it anyway and felt so good to do it. But I’d be lying. And there be no benefit for me in doing this blog, if wasn’t going to be honest with you. I let fear win that day. I tried to justify to myself, oh the pain, I wouldn’t be able for it. It would be better if I just had another soak. That on Saturday I would get back on track with my training and push through. Instead of going, I busied myself with my food prepping for the week to come. Before having another soak, this doubling the amount of salts (probably more tripled, I just tipped about a third of litre in.) I don’t regret not going. I know there will be a lot more pain and hopefully with each week my body will get better at recovering from this. But pain and me are never going to be friends. I can’t guarantee that fear won’t freeze me again. But I am still determined to continue. I am not quitting. I am going to keep powering through.

Weight: 12st 11.2 lbs

Run: 0km (I know I am just so bad. I really need to get out running, that 5k is coming up soon!)

Feelings: The sheer agony of it all. Really wanted to spend the week curled up in a ball crying.


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