Thursday, July 17, 2014

Foreword to adventure

Hard to believe that in three nights time, I'll be sleeping in a hostel in Hungary. I've wanted to go to Budapest for the last two years since I read a fascinating article about the city in an inflight magazine while flying to Helsinki. I'm not sure why but a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew then I had to go there. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it there on my last trip around Europe so this year

I've hardly had time to even think about my trip. It's always been something that's up ahead in the future but still so far off. Even as the days remaining have narrowed to single digits, I still haven't grasped the concept that the time has come. But come it has and I think the timing is just right. The last couple of months have been stressful and tiring. This year I've push myself to the extremities in many aspects of my life and I need to break out and disappear if only for 2 weeks.

There's always been something that appeals to me about just putting my bag on my back, grabbing a map and off I go. As the old phrase goes "its the journey that counts, not the destination". This year i've decided to be more flexible in my travel plans. Only the start and end point are set in stone. The rest I'll decide as I go on. A friend of mine once told me that having a plan goes against the spirit of interrailing. There's a big internal battle being my need to organised and my desire to be spontaneous. Last years trip was carefully planned and at times I felt under pressure to meet deadlines. I'd like to see how my friend's approach works for me.

And yes I am travelling alone. I find it fascinating how alien this concept seems to be for people to grasp. For me the idea of the sole traveller is the ultimate experience as it pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to interact with strangers.

I'll try to keep the blog up to date as a I travel... let's see where this journey takes me

Sunday, June 29, 2014

another fitness update

One of these days I'm gonna write a post that isn't about fitness I promise. That said, an update is long overdue. My last post was the mungret 10k which was well over a month ago and a lot has happened.

I've run two 10ks. At the end of May, I took part in the sixmilebridge 10k which was a nice route but very tough at times. A bit frustrated with my time of 76 minutes. Then last weekend I had the Clare10k which was an amazing event. An ankle injury about a mile into the race left me hobbling for the next 2km which was very frustrating but after the 4th KM I managed to get back on track and completed it in a shocking 75 minutes which makes me wonder how quick I would have been if it hadn't been for the injury. But there's no point dwelling on what could have been. No permanent damage seems to have been done and I've taken steps to (hopefully) prevent a recurrence of this injury.

And after 8 weeks, the Limerick Sports Partnership's Summer Fitness Challenge has come to end with the second fitness test. All week I was bit nervous about it. I'm still waiting for the results of both to be sent to me but I'm pretty sure I improved in all areas. The one part I was dreading was the Mile. On the first night I managed to run the mile in 13.50 minutes. Despite my legs feeling a bit weak all week, I took off around the track and completed the seven laps in an astonishing 8.58!! I was shocked, lost for words at the end. That's five freakin minutes off my time in just 8 weeks. I couldn't believe it. Just goes to show what you can achieve with regular training and dedication. Well done to all the other participants who finished, it was smiles all round so everyone must have improved.

I can't finish this without thanking our instructor Derek who was fantastic. From the first night, he decided i was going to be the butt of his jokes and didn't let up. With every joke and smart remark, I was even more detirminded to succeed. He was full of great advice when it came to running and general fitness and kept encouraging me to improve. Couldn't have done it without him

Gonna continue with the Campus Run and Track Attack for the summer months. Next up on the race calendar is a nightime 5k in an amazing location - the runway of Shannon Airport! This is something I'm really looking forward to as it's such a unique opportunity to do something like this.

Till next time folks...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mungret St Pauls 10k

So after a productive 5k run on Thursday and an insane workout on Friday night, Saturday was well earned rest day ahead of Sunday's race - the Mungret/St Paul's 10km.

On the morning of the race I was feeling a bit nervous that I wouldn't be able to reach my target of 75-79 minutes. I was feeling sluggish and my legs were a bit shaking. On top of that the weather in the morning looked miserable.

I wasn't sure what the route would be like having heard everything from "its a nice flat route" to "its full of hills" and everything in between. Those who mentioned the hills all talked about the monstrous hill from the cresecent shopping centre up towards the Regional Hospital and St Paul's church.

However when it came time to get going, everything came together. I ran comfortably along with the 60min pacer for the best part of the first 2km before dropping back to my own pace. To my surprise I was very comfortable running along and was doing longer sprints than I've ever managed. I kept my pace at consistantly at 7.98km/hr from 2km to 9km. Despite the warnings I found the hill from the Crescent to St Paul's Church to be grand - it was a gradual climb with a nice road under your feet. I was very happy with my progress and looked like i'd be able to meet my target time.

As I hit the 9km mark, I was hit with a proper hill. This was one tough bastard of a hill. I could see the finish point of the GAA Club ahead but it was taking everything I had to keep going. The thoughts of reaching my target started to see less and less likely. It seemed to be taking forever to get up that hill.

Even as I turned into the GAA Club, every step was a challenge but as I crossed the finish line I was shocked to see a time of 1hr13mins. I couldn't believe it. Not only had I got in under my target, I had smashed my Personal Best by six minutes! On top of a new PB, I've managed to go from 86 minutes to 73 in just six weeks!

I'd like to thank fellow Scouter Theresa Kielly and her gang of cheerleaders at the roundabout who gave me great support at the start and finish of the race. Really pushed me through. Also to Derek from the UL Arena who's advice during the Campus Run sessions has really helped me along. Thanks to everyone else who has encoruaged me - you're all amazing

I'm still on a high and i'm all set for my race in 2 weeks time - the Sixmilebridge 10km. This time we're aiming for 70 minutes or less. Watch this space

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

fitness update 3

So after the excitement that was the Great Limerick Run, it was time to recover and start working towards my next race - the Mungret/St Paul's 10k which is coming up this Sunday. Probably a bit nuts to try another 10k so soon but make hay while the sun shines.

So the next few days were spent recovering from Sunday's run. A bit of walking and some light stretching before heading back to circuits on Wednesday. I must say I found this week's session touch. In particular anything that involved jumping seemed like a real struggle.

This week's Mystery Friday session was.... circuits again! This was due to a school's basketball tournamenet and the national gymnastics championships. Must say I felt much more comfortable on Friday than I did on Wednesday.

I was hoping to get out onto the hills on Sunday but an orange weather warning. Monday was an other running session. This time we were covering 5k from the arena to the kilmurry roundabout up to the vistacon roundabout and back down via the Plassey park road. After doing the last run in 45minutes, I set 40 mins as my goal for the night and managed to get around in exactly that time.

Another circuit session tomorrow and a mystery session (not circuits) on Friday before the race on Sunday. I'm setting a goal of between 75 and 79 minutes to do the route. Might be a bit much to ask so soon after the GLR


I should probably thank my sister Katie who has been a great source of encouragement and support in my bid to become fitter. Katie and I have been swapping streching techniques and discussing tips for improving our running in the lead up to the GLR. On the day of the race, I joined Katie on the starting point but she took off flying ahead and finished in an amazing time of 01.00.01. Since then the two of us have been discussing other races we could do.

Another friend who I must thank is Daan from the Netherlands. Daan is a nutrition coach and has kindly offered to give me some coaching on my nutrition. This is one aspect of my life that has always been negelected so I think its time I work on it. I had a very productive skype chat with Daan last Thursday and we discussed my standard diet and how we can improve it. It'll be interesting to see what I can achieve with Daan's help. (Might do a special blog post on this)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Great Limerick Run

So this year I took part in the Great Limerick Run for the first time. I was blown away by the sheer scale of the event. The buzz around the city was incredible.

As I've been concentrating on my general fitness instead of just running and my endurance isn't the best, I wasn't expected anything spectacular out of the day. My aims were to do better than the Plassey 10k (87 mins) and run for as much of it as I could.

I finished in 1 hour and 20 mins which is equal to my PB (Human Race 2013) and 7 minutes faster than the Plassey 10k. The big difference from the Human Race is that I was feeling fantastic both during and after. I was much more comfortable running and my calves didn't hurt anywhere near as much as previous races. I was feeling so good was actually able to go out around the town later that evening - something i've never managed to do before this.

The banter along the route was fantastic. Everyone was cheering each other on. The crowds along the route were amazing - especially the marathon runners from earlier and the kids with the arms outstretched for high fives.

Before the race my sister and I took part in a workout session led by Ireland's Mr Motivator Richie Clifford. As being the only male participant near the front I was dragged up near the stage as an example by Richie. Later on, during the race, I met three women who "remembered my arse from" earlier. These women were great craic on the final two miles and really helped me to keep going - even if they had me in stitches.

Today was a real boost for my confidence on so many levels and I can't begin to describe how ecstatic I felt as I crossed the finish line. Its amazing how much an impact a day like yesterday can have on you. For now, the attention turns to the Mungret/St Paul's 10k (May 18th) and the Irish Runner 5mile (June 28th). In the distance, loom October's Human Race and next year's GLR.

Well done to everyone who took part no matter how quick or slow you did it - you did it. You are all legends each and everyone of you. Well done to the organisers and volunteers on running a fantastic event (its no mean feat organising an event with 12,000 participants and countless number of spectators and shutting down a city for an entire day).

BarryGetsFit - update 2

So I've achieved a lot since my last post. After six weeks of track attack on a Wednesday I'm really starting to get the hang out it. I'm more comfortable doing the stations and I'm increasing my reps each week.

I started the Limerick Sports Partnership's Summer Fitness Challenge. This is an 8 week programme (lead by Derek who runs the Track Attack sessions) that runs 3 nights a week out of the UL Arena. We started with a fitness test that included a BMI test, a grip test, sit ups and a mile run. All our scores we're recorded and we'll compare them to our scores in 8 weeks time. Turns out i'm even unfitter than I thought I was but now I was a score to beat. And I will beat it!

The challenge is quiet varried. On Monday's we take part in the Camus Run. Last week we had to walk and/or run 5km from the door of the Arena up to vistacon and back. I've always found running tough but persevered and managed to run most of it.

On Wednesdays we'll be doing the Track Attack session. Having been doing it for a few weeks, I took two beginners around with me. It was interesting to watch the perspective of a beginner and it made me think how far I've come in the past seven weeks.

Fridays are the only session that changes. Each Friday we're going to try a different activity that the Arena offers such as Step Arobics, TRX, Kettlebells, Boxercise. Due to the GLR Expo being set up we were restricted to the track on the first night so we did the alternative Track Attack course (normally run on Tuesdays and Thursdays). This meant we got to try a number of different stations or variations of the stations I'm used to. For this session, I was paired with Andrew who is a lot fitter than I am but that pushed me to keep going even when I felt like given up.

So that's 4 sessions out of around 26 done. I'll post more as I go on. So that leads onto yesterday - the Great Limerick Run, but I think that deserves a post of it's own

Thursday, April 17, 2014

BarryGetsFit - 2014 update

So the #BarryGetsFit campaign of 2013 started and stopped and started and stopped.... well you get the picture. So March 2014 rolled around and my fitness was edging towards a new low. I had stopped running and was walking a hell of a lot less. Add to that, I was putting on a good bit of weight, I was exhausted a lot and I was stressed out to the max.

I decided if i was going to do something I needed routine so I decided to go for a group class in the UL Arena. If I had a scheduled session to go to, I reckoned I'd be less likely to skip it. So the following week I packed my sports gear and headed off for my first attempted at track attack.

Track Attack is a form of circuit training. After two laps of the track and some exercises, you have to complete 16 stations on the circuit (eg burpees, spinning, hurdles, press ups etc) for 20 seconds. Following a break you have to do a circuit of 20 stations for 40 seconds and then a final 16 stations for 20 seconds.

I won't lie - its not easy. Some of the activities really take it out of you. Also its impossible to do the hurdles without looking like a twat. But some of the activities are fun and there's good banter with the other people there. While you're body may be cursing you during the workout, afterwords you feel great - both physically and mentally.

After five weeks, the results are incredible. I feel stronger, more alert and my mood has definately improved. The different activities are becoming easier to do (while still challenging).

I've also started running again. At the start of April I attempted the Jacinta O'Brien Plassey 10k run around UL. I found this tough and got nowhere near my target for the day. This failure of sorts has been a motivator to do better. In May I have the Great Limerick Run 6mile and in June I'll be heading up to Dublin to a 5 mile in the Phoenix Park. I've a training plan in place

Overall things are looking up. I've a lot of work to do to get to where I need to be (both physically and mentall). Watch this space