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.

 

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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.

 

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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 🙂

Towards a better me: Part 11

I have sat down to write this post at least twenty times and re-written it closer to ten times. I have not been happy with any version so far. Not even this one. But I think I need to rip of the band-aid.

 

I think it is fair to say that I have been some what lacking in motivation with everything, training, writing and even cooking. The only thing I seem to have the motivation for is reading. Each day is simply, eat, work, read, sleep and do it all over again tomorrow.

 

I am currently over half way through another 12 weeks personal training course. But I don’t feel like I am progressing at all. Firstly, my personal trainer, Denise moved to newer pastures three weeks into the course. It was a bit of a struggle to hold back the tears on her last day. She was so lovely and chatty. Without her pestering me each week on whether I have attended all of my classes, I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself enough.  I’m like ah sure its “Games of Thrones” tonight, that so much more important than going to a class, right! I am slacking, I know this but can’t seem to shake free from it. I haven’t even done a single session that wasn’t a personal training or class.

 

Each week I tell myself I am going do better, I am going behave. I will go to my classes. I need to focus but I just can’t seem to achieve it. It didn’t really help that I was on holidays for a week and half. The PT sessions are released for booking in week batches on the Tuesday the week before. All of the prime evening and morning sessions go so fast. You need to get on real quick if you want to get the slot you want. I had planned to do the training on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday once I was back but being over in France I completely forgot and didn’t get on until later and there was nothing. So, my one and half week break became a two week break.

 

Then last week again the bookings went so fast even though I was checking every hour waiting for them to be released. I only managed to get things booked for the weekend. But then ended going up home for my mother’s birthday instead. So over half way through and missing three weeks! My rhythm is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. It isn’t helped by lengthy recovery times after. My joints are aching something terrible for four or five days. I was so thankful that this week is going much better. But no my lower back is in agony.

 

Another thing I am struggling with is food. Those who know me knows my love affair with food. I love food. Food is emotion. It’s comfort, it’s exciting, it’s memory. Food can evoke so much. When I get homesick, I attempt to make my mum’s beef stew. Its never as good as hers. But it’s enough to tie me over. If I’m really bad and heading up to her soon I’ll put a request for it. While over in France for holidays, Pierre brought me to a Michelin star restaurant, Clovis. To say it was an amazing food experience is a massive understatement. I can’t wait to go back next year!

 

There was a moment earlier in the year, when my boss was selling her practice, that I considered possible doing a culinary course. I love cooking and blogging about cooking. There is so much I want to learn about, to understand flavours and textures better. It was a very tempting idea, but a risky one. What if I wasn’t actually good at it. What if I did have what it takes. If I hadn’t had a mortgage, I might of taken the plunge. Maybe one day I will.

 

But at the moment, I am not really cooking. My poor KitchenAid is sitting on the counter unused and unloved. My dinners of late have been very lazy. Just chicken or salmon with broccoli with sweet chilli sauce. While it is quite tasty, there isn’t anything exciting about it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are just becoming monotonous. I long to get back into the kitchen and makes something new and exciting. But everything is hectic and busy. I hardly seem like I have had a moment to rest, a moment to breathe.

 

This week so far I have been moderately well behaved, I have taken my meds (most days), ate relatively well, been into the gym twice for two intense work outs. I was even inspired enough to make a new recipe, Garlic and Pepper Chicken Stir-fry. It was very tasty.

 

I do feel like giving up sometimes. Ever since my little face drop during the 5k back in March, my period has been consistently absence. I can’t help feeling sometimes that this isn’t gonna happen for me. Every passing month my belief is waning and I think that is where my lack of motivation is coming from.

 

 

Towards a Better Me: Part 10

Realisation:

 

‘The Fear’ was still my training mate this week, but I had Denise back this week. ‘Did ya miss me?’, she said as she bounced down to the PT room. ‘Yes, Michelle made me do planks!’, was my reply. The laughter from her indicated she wouldn’t be taking it easy on me.

‘Any more issues since?’,

‘No’,

‘Good, time to take it back up!’

Oh, what I had let myself in for! It was a tough session, and Denise was holding no punches. But Denise had let slip, she had a new beau. The other girl taking part in the training session and I wasted no time in taking the piss and attempting to freak her out. And while it was fun to see her squirm, I was genuinely thrilled for her. Tuesday night was gone in a flash. It was quite a blur. I can only remember one of the bench presses. I couldn’t get over how heavy the 25kg bar felt. I hadn’t used it in the three weeks and it felt so heavy. It took everything to do those bench presses.

 

Thursday’s morning session was also a blur and quite tough, not helped by the fact that I had missed breakfast. Denise and I had the personal training centre to ourselves. I know I had the bench presses with the 25kg bar but I don’t know what else. Seriously, I really should write these soon as to the day as possible. It’s only been a week like! It was a very good session. I head to work after my shower very pumped and made to the office just on the stroke of nine.

 

I had my little sister and one of the bitchmittens’ founders, Rhona and her new hubby coming down the weekend and she was currently trying to convince me to go cycling. I haven’t been cycling since last June. My gears are fucked and take absolutely ages to change, which really grinds my gears. (See what I did there! Sorry I know I’m not the funny one.) And on my last bike ride, I only managed about 5km and half way through took my gear frustrations physically out on my bike and kicked the shit out of it! I may have even bent the back wheel, but I cycled back just fine. So finally, I reluctantly agreed to cycling if Pierre could fix my bike. Luckily (or unfortunately), he could and we were able to borrow bikes for Rhona and Cormac from our friends.

 

I wasn’t expecting much from me and I had told the others they may have to leave my lying on the grass somewhere while they went all the way to Crosshaven. It 15 km, I was thinking I’d be happy with 7km. It was a gorgeous day down in Carrigaline and the Carrigaline – Crosshaven Railway Walk was looking lush and green and full of people walking, running and cycling. We made our way out and everything was going well. Knees were a bit sore but that was about it. I was quite happy to fly past where I had stopped and had a fight with my bike. And I just kept going, I was in the rear but I was easily keeping up with the guys. The lads pushed forward leaving Rhona and I behind as we chatted. Though they didn’t get far. They had pulled over to take in the beautiful scenery.

 

After a barely of a minute of stoppage and a couple selfies, we were back on the trail to Crosshaven with me and Rhona leading the way. I was in great form, enjoying myself immensely, saying hello to everyone I passed. God only knows what they thought of me. Crazy lady on her purple bike! Before I knew it, we were in Crosshaven. We mused about whether to get a coffee here or head back and get one in Carrigaline to drink at the beach. Beach was the call, so back on the bikes we got and off we went. Unfortunately for me, the gears on bike were stuck in quite a high gear. And I was belting it back in, leaving the others in my dust! Pierre eventually caught up with me and I stopped to let the others catch up. Pierre has a bike computer on his, and clocked me at 28km per hour. Once I caught sight of Ro in the distance off I shot again only stopping at the end of the trail. It took the guts of 45 minutes out and only 1 minute back in. I got a chance to sit down and wait for the others. The gear issue became my undoing once we reached the big hill up to my house. I ended making the climb on foot. It seemed like the longest trek ever! I jumped back on once it had levelled out a bit and then there was only the short ride back to the house where the others were waiting.

 

All in all, it was very good day. I got to remember why I loved cycling so much. I used to go everywhere on my bike when I was younger. I was quite surprised that I was able to cycle the whole thing and with ease, if you exclude my aching knees and the hill! But when you compare it to how far I got last year, it was a clear indicator of just how much more fit I have become in only three months.

 

Now if only I could cycle the mini marathon and I be set.

 

The Lunchtime Slot

This is a funny one because obviously not everyone can actually do this. Buuuut… If it’s possible for you and your are sorta on the fence as to when you want to train then please allow me to advocate for the lunchtime slot. It sounds like a drag but I think you might be pleasantly surprised!

 

1: It’s time sensitive so you gotta be proactive

So most people have an hour for lunch, right? And for most of us humans 45minutes to an hour is LOOOOADS of time to get our sweat on per day. I find when I’m training after work I dawdle, dawdle something fierce. I come home, check the post, clean the kitchen, watch some telly, get changed, chat on the phone, stare out the window, take a nap, lie on the floor, dust the windows, shave the cat and before you no it it’s quite late and I’m rushing to get a good workout done before dinner. However, in work I need to be done by 1.45pm so I can eat in peace. So I hop out the door with my gear on as soon as I can to get a 4-5k run done, sometimes more, sometimes less. Be back in time to de-sweat, eat my lunch and chill for a few minutes. And then I’m done for the day!

 

2. You can usually coerce fellow colleagues to train with you

I’ve done this loads, I get everybody to run with me! Usually someone who wants to get their fitness back up and (like me) wants the company and the constant distraction/encouragement. It keeps training social so you aren’t totally losing your lunch to fitness. So instead of dragging your ass to the gym and training by yourself you can get active and get the office goss!

 

3. It’s a great excuse to wear activewear

I’m going to assume I’m not alone in this, leggings are just too comfy. I’m a graphic designer in a company with many marketing peeps/account manager types, so the likelihood of me meeting a client is really slim. Really, really slim. So on the days I want to squeeze in a jog at lunch I come prepared! Donned in my nicest activewear, feeling comfortable yet still quite chic! It means I can be lazy and wear comfy clothes in the morning while still be fit and active later on in the day with minimal effort! Of course if your are the super duper sweaty type (or have client meetings after lunch) you can always bring a change of clothes.

 

4. You have the evening to get sh*t done

Over the past few weeks my life has been turned on it’s head. Frankly, right now, I couldn’t train in the evenings. My weeknights have become a well-oiled routine of dinner prep, lunch prep, laundry prep and then out the door not to return again till 11pm at the earliest. Training at lunchtime still allows me to do something for myself in a day that is now filled with everyone else’s needs. It’s almost like a bubble bath, with no bubbles or scented candles. Just sweat and rave tunes… And even if you’re not like me and you have the evenings free, having your training done for the day means, you can hang out with friends, go to the cinema, go out for dinner, hike a mountain etc. Stuff you can’t do in an hour lunch break. You can still live your life.

 

5. It gets you out

I bring my lunch to work, I rarely have out of office meetings. So the lunchtime run is a perfect excuse for me to just get out of the office. Take a break from deadlines and processes and just have a proper break from your work. Sometimes it can be hard to switch off if you stay in the office and it’s not always possible to eat outside(not in Ireland at least), but you can run in most weather.

 

Keeping active with and hectic life can be a struggle. Family, friends, bills, meetings all get mushed in together and sometimes it’s hard to find time for a wee jog, yoga session or whatever else you’re in to. So if you feel like you want to add some training to your day but already feel a bit overwhelmed, maybe your lunch break is the perfect slot. Just maybe…

 

 

 

 

Towards A Better Me: Part 8

The First Race

 

This week finished with the first milestone of this journey the Castleconnell 5 k run.

 

Sunday morning, I was up early for the race. Rushing because I was supposed to be on the road at 9am as I was meeting my sisters at 11am in Castleconnell. Thankfully(?) Pierre was injured and could not run his Ballycotton 10 so I dragged him with me. We arrived there at 11:15 and texted the girls to say I was there and where were there. “Eh I’m like an hour away” replies Rhona. That’s when I double checked the text and realised we were meeting between 12 and 12:30. Oops. Better early than late, right? So I grabbed myself a hot chocolate and some cheeky sausage rolls and sat back into the car to wait. Eventually, the elder sister arrived with the nephews and we headed up to the community hall to sign in and meet Rhona. We chatted for a bit before heading down to get ready. With the boys in the buggy, we walked to start and a good bit past it to World’s End as it is called. When we walked back up, the active warm up had started and I tried do it to but I did feel very self-conscience. I have no idea why. It’s hardly any different from the warm-up in the bootcamp. Dad made it to the start line to wish us good luck before the off. We left the boys with him and Pierre and got ourselves ready.

 

 

race-2

Some very serious stretching before hand

 

 

And then we were off, slowly at first as there was a lot of people surrounding us. Eventually it spread out a bit so we could run beside each other. The first kilometre seemed to go by quickly and without too much struggle. I was falling a little behind my sisters and was not able to chat like them. After the 2km mark it started to get worse. I was struggling to get breathe in and everything started to hurt. My mood was very sour. Karen and Rhona said they were happy to take my abuse. I did also warn Karen she better move to the inside or I might throw her out on to the road. (I didn’t mean it, really, I swear!) I slowed to a walk briefly. As I approached the halfway mark, the pain really started. All on the right hand side of my body. My shoulder, torso, hip, leg and knee were very sore. But in hindsight, what was more worrying, the right side of my face drooped. I don’t know how long it lasted, I was just trying to keep going through the pain. Trying to breathe in enough air, I was very aware of my lip drooping. But I wasn’t even sure was it real. Just thought it can’t be a stroke otherwise I would not be able to keeping running. It wasn’t really until Rhona said she noticed the drooping too that my concerns started )I am going to the doctor to get it checked out and hopefully it won’t be anything.)

 

But I kept going, the 3km to 4km seemed to never end. There were moments when I just wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. I walked again briefly two more times. Karen and Rhona trying to encourage me forward but their words just annoyed me more. I revolted against the encouragement taking longer than I had planned for to get going again. The last km seemed as short as the first. Or maybe it was just that the last one was just so everlasting. I could feel the pain of a blister on my arch of my foot. It felt so uncomfortable. As we rounded the bend, I saw my mother with my eldest nephew, Conor, who then ran the last stretch with his mother (though I think he was actually dragged over the line at the end.) I just focused at the line, trying not to cry. I ran straight through the crowd at the end. I didn’t even go to get my mug and water. Just found somewhere alone and pulled the runners off of me.

 

 

race-3

Mere seconds from the finish line

 

 

I ran it nearly entirely in 34 minutes. I had barely ran 2.5 km in interval runs. I should have been so proud of myself. But I wasn’t. I felt nothing. I felt distant. My mood was very poor. I was very grumpy. Even now, I still feel very emotionless thinking about it, which if you know me, emotional is normally my status. I really can’t explain it. Maybe, I just don’t believe that I actually did it. But the first big milestone on this journey has been passed.

 

And that’s something.

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