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 🙂

Swim, Run, Crawl

Monika The Brave.

New challenges await us all, if we’re just open to them. Rower Monika has a few great achievements under her belt, not least of which is tackling this blog post, along with just a few other challenges 🙂



It has beHalf Ironen on my mind to contribute to this blog for a good few months now. Since November 2016 to be exact. How do I remember? Easy. I ran my first full marathon in Dublin on 30th October. I would have done something sooner, but I think low-self esteem held me back (believe it or not, that’s why I exercise), and I lack confidence to write in English, as it’s not my first language. But now, I’m ready!


It only took 42.126km. That’s 42,136 metres of of pure determination, willpower and self belief. If I can do that, I can blog, right? But now, how to write about marathon training, and for it to be interesting, and funny… There are bucket load of articles out there. Everybody is having a different experience. Also, half of my friends have completed a marathon. What else is there to say?


To be perfectly honest, I think training sucks big time. Pounding footpaths for hours on end, energy gels tucked behind my belt, asking random strangers for sips of water ( thanks Sean), checking pace, cadence, heart rate. One week I counted a total of 140km, and then the weekends were around 100k mark. I was panicking the milage wouldn’t be enough. Was it necessary? For me, absolutely. I just wanted to finish with my head held high.


But then, after all those distances, disaster. A torn ankle tendon three weeks prior was massive set back, physically and psychologically. Calm, rest, focus. It was the hardest thing. But just in time, it came right. The day dawned bright and clear. The training kicked in, the lungs did their job. I made it through the finish line  and it was awesome! The best feeling ever. Now I am aiming to do one again this year in sub four hours. A new challenge!


Mon and BFTwo things I’ve learned. My body is awesome, it allows me to do crazy things like this one. Also, based on my experience, I believe that my body is made for endurance rather than speed. I want to add that I’m a 36 year old mum and that now I’m fitter than I ever was in my 20’s. This experience has also been under the watchful eye of my fit bf, he was full of encouragement and confidence.  We ran it together. Well, actually I ran way waaay behind him, but it was an amazing experience to share with each other. I still remember the walk back, I always laugh out loud when I think of it. Holding onto rails along Merrion square. Our legs were totally fucked for days afterwards.


But now that I’ve started writing, I realise that this story is not about running a a marathon. And it’s not about rowing  – a sport which is in my heart forever and still identify myself as a rower (I miss you girlies already). This story is actually about trying something new. I tried marathons. And for me, my next new thing is triathlon. Because two sports are not enough obviously. Three sports which are combined, that I think I do like very much. And excuse my pun, but life’s too short not to try a tri!


It actually all started with the half Ironman event in Dublin last August. I completed one as part of a relay with my dad, with me running. (That’s us in the very first picture)  he’s a 63 year old MACHINE on the bike. Oh my, how proud was I? What an honour to share this experience with him. Since then I’ve had this conflicting ideas in my head. Will i do more, will i not? Will I leave rowing for a while? I was afraid to loose the idea of belonging to my club, the support of training, the gatherings of friends. But thanks to 70.3, i found my tri boyfriend and gained even more amazing friends, like-minded swim, bike and run enthusiasts.


So here I am, beginning of February 2017, full of beans, can’t wait for the next adventure to begin. Tri-ireland licence renewed, first race in May paid for.

image1 (3)I have started to run again when-ever possible (though I really didn’t feel like it for a while). I’m now swimming three times a week and I began cycling last December. A good few lessons in the pool were necessary to be honest. They still are and I have a personal coaching lesson booked for next week, so i don’t go backwards or sink when I make it to the open water. I bike every sunday morning here in Killaloe with great bunch of people. Sure, my life isn’t busy enough as it is 🙂 #rolls eyeballs.


I’ll be taking it nice and handy this season. Some sprint distances (750/20/5) and Olympic distances (1.5/40/10) #read swim /bike/ run, they will do me nicely. With some duathlons ( run/bike/run)  lined up in next three months. Cold water is my enemy, (Emily do you remember? A few splashes of cold water in the boat and I nearly ended up in A&E with pneumonia) Some triathlete, what?


I intend to keep in touch with #PBM over the training and race period, and report back on how it’s going, with it all being new to me. For now, there’s more excitement than fear, and I’m happy to be able to share it with you!


Wish me luck!




Sport: From Racing Stripes to Coaching Stripes

One Girl’s Journey

One of the biggest races in the Irish Triathletes calendar, The Dublin City Triathlon took place just a few days ago and it was won by my lovely club mate and awesome athlete Carolyn Hayes, and in the males another talented young athlete Russell White.

My own feelings are mixed. Just a few short years ago, that was me on the podium, alongside Olympian and Triathlete Gavin Noble who won the men’s section. I can remember the entire race really clearly. It was just one of those days when everything clicked. In coaching speak, this is called ‘peak performance’ which is  a pretty special thing to experience.  I raced age group triathlon competitively both on a national and international level for 5 years and it was a pretty cool period of my life. It also took up most of my time!

”I can’t make that I’m racing”

“sorry I’m late I was training”

“please ignore the permanent marker number on my hand  – it’s a race number”

“can you collect me from god knows where I have had multiple punctures”

You get the gist!

It was a busy, and in hindsight, quite selfish time but I loved every minute of it.  But after a period of particularly intense training and then racing at the World Triathlon Championships in London in Sept 2013 I decided to hang up my tri suit for a wee break.


“I decided to hang up my tri suit”

What came next was a little nerving. I felt lost. What to do with myself now? I wasn’t planning on sitting around but I certainly didn’t need to be wearing a GPS watch on a daily basis or checking my resting heart rate before I got out of bed each morning either!  I knew I wanted to stay involved in the sport somehow. I’m a member of one of Ireland’s leading Triathlon clubs called GoTri, and someone suggested I try a spot of coaching. It would be an opportunity for me give something back.  I would also see the sport I loved from another side… the coaches’ side!


So off I went to do my level 1 Triathlon Coach course to learn the tricks of the trade.  First you must complete a precursor course called the Tri-Leader course. This costs about €60 and can be completed in a day. Next, you do the Level 1 Coach course which takes two days. You need to be a member of Triathlon Ireland, and if you are nominated by a club, the course fees are €195. Over two intense days, there are a series of lectures and practical’s that cover a wide range of coaching essentials.  The course gives you a TI Affiliated Coach Status, along with an accreditation card, which is valid for three years, and is a recognised accredited qualification with Coaching Ireland.


The course introduced me to some incredible coaches. It was also a huge eye opener! I began to realise just how much work goes into coaching and how much I owed my own coach for the successful years I had racing.  I then began to work with and train other athletes.  Honestly? I found this challenging to begin with!

Sometimes I still do.  It’s a tough transition.   I remember watching a Ronan O’Gara interview when he moved to France for his first coaching role.

He said “I sometimes just want to run back onto the pitch and take the penalty”

I could totally relate.

There were days I watched races from the sidelines and I just wanted to drop the stopwatch and jump on my bike and chase someone down! It’s all part of my transitional process and and I’m  still working on it every day.

If you want to see your sport from a new perspective, and if you want to give something back – I would urge you to try a spot of coaching. From under 10’s rugby all the way to international competitions, coaching is a way for anyone to find fulfilment and purpose and it also helps you appreciate the time, effort and dedication that coaches put in for the good of many.

“Coaching is a way for anyone to find fulfilment and purpose”

As I write this I am watching amazing female Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen smash another title in the World Triathlon Series and interestingly her husband is her coach!! Now that must make for interesting domestics☺ But I guess that’s a whole other blog.

I am looking forward to continuing my coaching journey and maybe sometime getting back to the racing but for now I’m happy to keep on working towards those coaching stripes.


Here’s to all coaches everywhere☺


#BitchMittens Andree


Notes from the Ed:

All the info you need to find out about becoming a Triathlon Coach can be found on the Triathlon Ireland website here.

Thanks to Andree for taking the time to write this post – not only is she busy coaching, she’s also working on this little gem – ‘My Next Adventure’ is an incredible new kayak tours company run by Andree and her wonderful hubbie Mike which you should definitely check out.


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