I recently took part in an adventure race called Hell & Back in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. The course was 7km in distance (there is a 12km course too) and is filled with obstacles to overcome. We had ice baths, A-frames, 12 ft walls, swamps, sludge rivers, climbing walls, cage crawls, barb wire, sewage pipe crawls, cargo nets and river jumps.
What is a calcium score test I hear you say?
If you live in the US, chances are you have probably heard of this as the US seem to be about 5 years ahead of Europe in terms of disease management, especially heart disease.
Cardiac computed tomography (CT for short) for Calcium Scoring uses special x-ray equipment to produce pictures of the coronary arteries to determine if they are blocked or narrowed by the buildup of plaque – an indicator for atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD).
Having just completed my 2nd marathon in Dublin this weekend, these are my 4 best bits.
Best Bit #1 – The Start Line
The excitement is palpable, there is alot of nerves bouncing around, everyone is super keen to start running but you have to have a calm head and avoid sprinting out of the traps, there is a long road ahead. You have spent 16 weeks and ran over 500 training miles to get to this point and it is a super experience to soak up.
Best Bit #2 – The Supporters
I have never ran another marathon anywhere but I think Dublin is pretty special in that so many people come out to support the runners on the day. The streets are lined with people, all shouting encouragement and offering sugary treats. It can carry you through the dark patches.
Best Bit #3 – The Fundraising Experience
This time out, I chose to use my experience and challenge to raise money for a children’s hospital to help them continue to provide their life-saving work for the kids of this city that need it the most. I did it because I owe them one, a big one called Benjamin. You can read more about my story here and if it resonates with you, you can donate to this very worthy cause. I managed to raise over €3000 for this cause in what was a very humbling and rewarding experience.
Best Bit #4 – The Finish Line
There is nothing quite like the pain you go through when you put your body through those 26.2 miles, all of which disappears the minute you clap eyes on the finish line. Every step is a step closer to it but for most of the 4 hours I was out there, it felt a long way away. You can literally feel the rush of endorphins when you cross that line and give yourself permission to stop running. It is incredible.
Best Bit #5 – The Food and Drink
I know I said 4 but probably the best bit of all is the guilt-free eating and drinking that you can indulge in after this event. Eat and drink whatever you want, you have earned it!
A few photos from around the day.
With only a few days left before I embark on my 2nd marathon, I am trying to pause to reflect on the journey so far.
Training for a marathon will take you about 16 weeks and you will run over 500 training miles in the process. Your body (especially legs) will change over time, muscles become used to the impact of the movement and you will find yourself with a clearer head and better sleep. These are only a few of the benefits but the ones that I have felt most clearly.
I view it as a gift. To be able to complete this training is a gift. To have a body that can endure the miles and recover for the next run is a gift (note there was a time not so long ago where the most I could ever manage was 5km). To have access to a world of nutritional information at our finger-tips is a gift. There is a lot to be grateful for. The reason I say this is because I am a firm believer in the idea of how you view something has a great impact on the result.
Do you generally view things as obstacles or opportunities? Most of us might say the latter but the reality might be the former. Viewing hard tasks as opportunities to learn and grow certainly does not come naturally to me, I have to make a very deliberate and conscious decision to view something this way.
The lens you choose to look at the world through has a big big impact on your level of enjoyment and fulfilment in your life.
I will be resting up for the next few days, with no running whatsoever, to be fresh and energised come Sunday for the marathon. While I do hope to better my time from last year, my primary goal is to raise funds and awareness for a Dublin children’s hospital, to which I owe a great debt of service. You can read about mine and Ben’s story here.
When the legs give up, the mind takes over. Mind over marathon. Bring it on!
Today I reached a personal best for both distance and time/pace in my preparation for the Dublin City marathon at the end of October 2018. When you put your body under that strain for that amount of time, knowing how to recover from that bodily stress will help you start walking properly again in no time!
Recovery from a long run actually starts in the run itself. Minimise your dehydration levels by taking small sips of water mixed with coconut water often (every 2-3 miles works well for me) to quickly replenish lost salts and electrolytes as you sweat. Always run on grass where available – you will cut your risk of injury in half.
Recovery from a long run actually starts in the run itself.
Epsom salts. When you get home, run a piping hot bath and throw 1-2 cupfuls of these amazing little minerals into it before you get in. The two main ingredients here are the minerals magnesium and sulfate which are both readily absorbed through the skin. They help to ease pain and reduce inflammation which will help your sore muscles recover faster. Plus you will really enjoy a soak in the tub after all that road time. You can get a big tub (4kg) in any pharmacy for about €12-€15. I use the UltraPure range below at the moment and find it really helpful.
Try to eat within 1.5 hrs of finishing your run. For me, this is a tough one as it takes at least that amount of time for my appetite to return but when it does I turn into a caveman. You will need a mix of complex carbs and good quality protein for recovery. Right now I am really enjoying a halloumi burger with sweet potato fries as my post-run reward meal. Delish!
Have a beer or whatever is your tipple of choice that evening. Small reward systems are important and should not be overlooked as they improve the psychological experience of what you are doing. You deserve it!
Rest is the best performance enhancer on the market today. Underrated and omitted from today’s “hack” culture, getting good quality sleep both before and after a long distance run can make all the difference in terms of how you feel and your recovery. Sleep your way to improvement.
The next day, go for a small run. I know this may be the last thing you want to do but trust me this little step will pay off in spades when you go for your next proper run. I usually do 0.5 to 1 mile run with my kids the next day and have some fun with it. It helps to loosen up the body and get rid of any remaining lactic acid in the joints. Trust me on this one.
Apply these tips to avoid this.
Next month I am aiming to complete my 2nd marathon in 2 years and I am really looking forward to it. I only started running properly in mid-2016 when I was offered a redundancy package and took some time off to spend with my family. It was during this time that I decided to take on a challenge that seemed to me to be way outside my comfort zone at that time and the marathon ticked all those boxes. But once I made the decision to do it – this is the critical part – I made a commitment to myself to complete the training, to prioritize the activities and above all else, to enjoy the process and the journey. Going into that challenge with that mindset helped me enormously not only to complete the marathon last year but also to finish it strongly which left me with a taste for more running.
I am 7 weeks out from the marathon day itself, with about 10 weeks of training completed at this point. So far so good, the body is feeling healthy, the mind is in a positive state and I feel the fitness and recovery are both improving steadily.
As I write this I want to make one point very clear: the training for this event is hard. There is no way around it. You must put in the hard work to enable yourself to complete the distance and enjoy the race on the day. Obviously, you can’t just turn up on the day and run a marathon but I hear plenty of stories of would be marathon runners short cutting the training or trying to condense the plan e.g. shorter duration, higher miles. I don’t believe any of these “hacks” will yield the same kind of results as when you build your fitness slowly, have patience with the plan and stick to your goals, even when you really really don’t want to. Hasten slowly is the best advice I have ever gotten when it comes to marathon training.
I want to make one point very clear: the training for this event is hard. There is no shortcut, quick hack or way around it. You must put in the hard work…
For example, as part of my plan, I run to work a few mornings a week. This is about a 6.5 mile run down the N11 dual carriageway into the city centre. It involves running on lots of grass verges, dodging cyclists, navigating traffic and pedestrians. It takes me about an hour to run it and I have a shower in work when I’m done. I run past hundreds of cars stuck in traffic. I don’t have any food beforehand, I just get up, get dressed into my running gear, kiss my kids and wife goodbye and off I set. Anyone I tell this routine to thinks I am crazy. I can’t think of anything worse, one person said to me. For me, it works as I can build the running into my day (tip number 1 for success) and I can come home from work in the evening and spend fun time with my kids before bedtime (tip 2 for life enjoyment). But some mornings, like this morning, I woke up tired and lying in bed I came up with lots of really good reasons not to pull on the runners and open the door. In hindsight, this was just procrastination and once you become aware of it, you can cut through it. I cut through it this morning by just pulling on the runners. That was enough to get me moving in the right direction.
I have chosen (and it is your choice too) to embrace the long road of marathon running, to hasten slowly and steadily and to enjoy the changes it is bringing into my life (body, fitness, mood, enjoyment). The hacks might work for a little while but for sustainable and real change, the long road is the only road.
If you can relate, leave a comment below, would be great to hear from you.