The last 365 days have been pretty good as things go, so let me try and wrap it up into a few sporting highlights, memories and laughs.
It’s true, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of adrenaline from doing a race, or the happy feeling after finishing when you can relax and celebrate. This year I did 34 races, more than ever before. Some people focus on a few big events, but I like to compete/participate and try new challenges, so did everything from swimming in Glendalough to running up Mount Brandon.
Without doubt, my biggest sporting achievement which I’m most proud of this year is running a PB in the Boston Marathon (read my race report here). Given the tragic bombings, EVERYONE knew I was doing it, so the race itself got overshadowed in our minds (rightly so – read my account here). But from a sporting point of view, I got such a buzz running every step of that race.
It’s great when a plan comes together – the training plan started in January, I made a big transition to barefoot running philosophy and took the leap of “feet” (sorry faith) to do ALL my running in Vivo Barefoot runners. I genuinely believe in the ChampionsEverywhere guiding principle that every properly prepared man can run a sub 2hr 30min marathon. In the long run, that’s definitely my goal.
I tried so many new challenges this year which also opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. Running the Wicklow Way Trail (26km) in freezing conditions in March was a unique experience – who would ever get to run across Djouce Mountain or past Powerscourt Waterfall in a blanket of snow. Running on the track was new for me – I did the National Championships 5000m and had a baptism of fire – coming last in both my races, but glad I competed!
Swimming 3.8k around Glendalough was such a privilege….I can see how open water swimming is so calming – it’s you and the water. Don’t fight it or think about how far you’ve in front. The other great swim we had was down in West Kerry, when Nuala Moore took us 3k across Smerwick Harbour. A magical 360 degree view of the Brandon Mountains, the Three Sisters Heads, Ballydavid and the Blaskets in the distance.
The toughest challenges were the adventure races, but paradoxically they are also the ones I enjoy most. I get an extra adrenaline buzz from being at the competitive end of the field, but even still it’s a real privilege to get to explore the best parts of Dingle, Killarney, Wicklow and Wexford.
Dingle was the one race in my life where I hit the famous wall – it’s hard to explain unless it’s happened you but your energy just drains and you can’t continue. It’s the only time in a race when I couldn’t run. I slowed to a walk and had to stop – if a car had driven by and asked did I want a lift to the finish, I would have jumped in. Glad I didn’t…
In the triathlon world, I really enjoyed every race. I improved all 3 disciplines, so while I’m still behind on the swim, I can hold my own, especially in the tougher sea swims. The weather was spectacular for nearly every race and the craic after was great in most places. Not a bad race among them all: Kilkee, Athlone, Dunmore East, Tri the Hook, Loughrea, Beast of the East. I enjoyed racing in the National Series races against the best talent out there – it’s so cool to see where you rank and compare to Gavin Noble and Kevin Thornton. They set the bar – my moral victory was getting 4th fastest run split in Kilkee, although Gavin did look like he was jogging rather than going hell for leather.
I lost my Garmin watch during the year, so thought I’d go down with “gadget deficiency syndrome”, not knowing my exact heart rate, or my pace per kilometre. In fact the opposite was true. I didn’t replace it and found it liberating to go for a run and just enjoy the run, without being distracted or obsessed with checking vital stats.
Saying that I did bring my phone to listen to music, so used the Runtastic app to track my sessions, but only for distance and time to add to my log, rather than using for interval or pace running. To be honest, I know my body a lot better now, so can push myself easy/medium/hard depending on the session without a watch.
I’m still interested in my training stats, so I can appreciate the consistency and volume of training. Here’s my monthly total of activities per sport: overall I trained nearly every day (350+ sessions in 12 months), clocking up 6,662km (which would get you from Dublin to Orlando) and ran consistently all year (2,617km). My swimming was consistent 1-2 times per week through the summer, when I could swim in the sea, but drops back for the winter. My cycling is the same – I love getting out with mates on summer days, but not so keen of the cold rides.
In terms of PBs, I see a new PB in the marathon (Boston, 2:46:49) as well as the 10k (Dublin, 35:02) and 5k track (Santry, 16:36). Swimming 3.8k in Glendalough was a distance record and I improved by 1000m TT in the 50m pool to 18:23. I didn’t really set any cycling records, but did get a new Cannondale bike so feel like I’m going faster :-)