Looking back on a good 2019

Sharing my thoughts on my sporting year, from the mountains to the sea and everything in between

At this time of year many people look forward and look backward. The year that was – 2019. What will it be remembered for? Our news has been dominated by drama and scandal – Brexit, Trump, the FAI, freak weather and sporting highs and lows. We’re fed up of hearing about backstops, impeachment, quid pro quos and shouting in the Dáil and Westminster.

To find a balance, sport is often my escape. Watching or participating. I’ve enjoyed watching Tiger Woods and Shane Lowry. I made it to Croke Park, Tallaght Stadium, the UCD Bowl and various athletics meets. I’ve raced across the 4 corners of Ireland and in Germany, Portugal, Spain and the USA.

2019 was a very good year for me in sporting terms. I enjoyed it, number one. I made progress. I tried new things. I visited new places. I had some good results. I raced against some top athletes.

The year in numbers

I took part in 40 races, mostly running races on road and in the mountains (26), followed by 8 triathlons, 3 adventure races, a few sea swims and one long hike. I’ve made it on 9 podiums, including 2 wins. I really enjoyed actually climbing up on a real wooden podium at the triathlon mixed relays!

I was active 6-7 days a week, often commuting on foot or bike to work as part of my training. I was active for 566 hours, which is over 10 hours a week. I ran over 3,700 km and cycled over 5,600 km – doing more running and less cycling compared to 2018.

Happy memories

My proudest achievement is improving my personal best times across all running distances (5 PBs from 5km to marathon), as well as pushing myself to longer distance events in sea swimming, triathlon and running. The sense of satisfaction on beating my target marathon time in Frankfurt was huge, I got a real buzz and sense of reward from it.

It inspired me to think big for the future – we can constantly improve and learn. I also really enjoyed organising races for Belpark Triathlon Club (in the Phoenix Park and Blessington) and getting over 60 work colleagues fit to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way in Kerry.

The bad side

It wasn’t all good. I had to deal with injury over the summer, which stopped me from running for 4 weeks. It was frustrating and I found it hard to stop, although I was lucky to be able to put my energy into cycling and swimming, so wasn’t completely stuck inside.

I also regret not spending more time with friends and family. Reading Moire O’Sullivan’s book “Mud, Sweat and Tears” recently, she described it as “obsessive runners syndrome.” Going a bit OCD has consequences, which I didn’t realise, as I enjoy what I do, but can see it has trade-offs and downsides.

Being harsh, you could say I lay my cloth too thinly and do too many things, rather than targeting a single sport and focusing on a few big races. Perhaps I should just run and work and train in targeted blocks with clubmates to build up my road speed across all distances, with the ultimate goal of a sub 2:30 marathon?

A mate and fellow competitor said to me last year that I was more talented than him, but he tried harder and won more. Am I enjoying it too much and need a coach to set my plan and say you can’t do mickey-mouse races A, B and C, you just need to focus on the big shiny race 3 months away?

Double marathon anybody?

I pushed my body in new ways. Doing back to back marathons over 2 weekends isn’t recommended. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do both races, which were both memorable. However, the toll it took on my body the week and month after had been underestimated (well, impossible for me to predict). I’m recovered now and stronger for it, but November was about taking it a bit easier. Socializing, going to concerts, taking days off, normal stuff. Avoiding the FOMO on Strava.

Club training

Club training was also a highlight. I don’t do it enough, as I train a lot alone to suit my schedule. Yet when I train with either Rathfarnham, Belpark or Microsoft people, it’s definitely more enjoyable and you do push yourself more. My Rathfarnham clubmates are a great bunch, both men and women, of all abilities. I really felt progress in marathon prep over weekly Tuesday and Saturday sessions and hope to do more of it next year.

Travel

Racing brought me to new parts of Ireland and the world. The Wednesday night IMRA races showed me hidden mountains in Wicklow. Road running brought me to the Viking origins of Co. Laois as well as deepest south Kilkenny. Places I’ve never heard of like Bohermeen, Timahoe, Faugheen and Garafia. I got to swim in the River Shannon at Glin and explore the Beara Peninsula in the Lost Sheep Triathlon. Planes brought me to races in Frankfurt, New York, Porto and La Palma. I love the buzz of racing abroad, hearing the build up in another language and seeing all club race singlets with strange names and colours.

What’s next in 2020?

Every year I feel lucky to have the health, wealth and time to take part in the wonder of sport. So I hope that continues, as I realise many people are not able to enjoy sport, for various reasons. Anything could happen: sickness, injury, crash, job loss, change in family circumstances or whatever and I may have to deprioritise sport.

Hoping all goes well, my big goals for 2020 are #1 a new marathon PB in Berlin in September. The elusive 2h30m would be a dream target – “only” 8 minutes to find? It will be hard, but I know I can improve more. Other big races are an extremely tough half ironman in the Lake District in July and a 55km ultra marathon race in Turkey in April. The other usual suspects – adventure races in Glendalough and Dingle; various triathlons and mountain races around the country. I’d also love to try qualify for the World Mountain Running World Championships in Lanzarote in November.

Statistics

  • 40 races – athletics (road, cross-country, mountains); triathlon; sea swimming; adventure racing
  • 9 podiums:
    • 1st in Dublin Night Run 10km and IMRA Seefin race in the Comeraghs.
    • 2nd in Timahoe 10 mile, Bray Aquathon, IMRA Brockagh and on 2 relay teams – Wicklow Way Relay & Mixed Relay Triathlon
    • 3rd in Clonmel Duathlon
  • 5 PBs – from 5km to marathon distance
  • Total Time: 566 hours – over 10 hours a week, usually 6-7 days a week
  • Total Run: 312 hours & 3,793km (+700km since last year)
  • Total Bike: 227 hours & 5,435km (-1,500km since last year)
  • Total Swim: 77 hours & 193km
  • Longest activity: 7h 16m – Fei Sheehy Hike

PERSONAL BEST TIMES

  • Marathon: 2:38:04 (2019 – Frankfurt)
  • Half-marathon: 1:15:41 (2019 – Bohermeen)
  • 10 mile:  0:56:14 (2019 – Dungarvan)
  • 10 km:     0:33:56 (2019 – Dublin)
  • 5 mile:  0:27:20 (2015 – Dungarvan)
  • 5 km:     0:16:06 (2019 – Kilkenny)
  • 1 mile: 5:09 (2012 – Barcelona)

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